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Its furniture sales slipping, Domain files for Chap. 11

Liquidation, sale are both possible

Email|Print| Text size + By Binyamin Appelbaum
Globe Staff / January 21, 2008

Domain Inc., the Norwood-based parent company of the Domain Home furniture stores, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after a months-long struggle to find new investors as sales decline.

In a prepared statement, the company said its 27 stores would remain open, but it needs "breathing room" to search for enough cash to stay in business. It's possible the 200-employee company will be sold or liquidated, however, the statement said.

Domain also released a statement from its founder and chief executive, Judy George: "Domain has been my lifelong passion and I will fight for our future," it read in part. "We hope our company will be here for many years to come."

George did not return a call for comment yesterday.

Upscale furniture retailers such as Domain, facing rivals who sell inexpensive imports from China, have been hit hard by declining consumer spending. Several other chains have also filed for bankruptcy protection, including Bombay Co. and Levitz Furniture Inc.

Domain, founded in 1985, has stores in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. The Massachusetts stores are on Newbury Street in Boston and in Burlington and Natick.

Synergy Enterprises LLC, a New Jersey private investment firm, bought Domain in June from Aga Foodservice Group of the United Kingdom, which had acquired Domain in 2002.

At the time, Synergy said it planned to open as many as 15 new stores. But as the market turned, it began looking for a buyer instead. The company's directors voted Wednesday to seek protection from creditors in US Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del.

Domain reported that both its assets and its liabilities fall in a range of $10 million to $50 million. The filing listed the largest unsecured creditor as Paladin Industries Inc., a North Carolina furniture maker owed about $1.1 million.

In its bankruptcy filing, made late Friday, the company said its sales are declining and it needs capital. It cited "today's depressed economic and real estate environment" as a major cause of its troubles.

A Chapter 11 filing gives companies legal shelter while they reorganize, negotiate with creditors, and try to find new investors. Some companies succeed and return to normal operations.

In an e-mail to employees last week, George said she had been given 21 days to find the money needed to stay in business. "Please keep me in your thought and prayers," she wrote at the time.

The company's statement said George will focus on that search, while other executives will handle day-to-day operations.

The bankruptcy filing lists The New York Times Co., parent company of The Boston Globe, as a creditor.

Binyamin Appelbaum can be reached at bappelbaum@globe.com.

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