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Ritz Camera files for bankruptcy; seeks $85m loan

Posted by Teresa Hanafin  February 24, 2009 07:49 AM

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Bloomberg News

Ritz Camera Centers Inc., the largest camera store chain in the United States, has filed for bankruptcy protection, blaming the deepening US recession and the consumer transition to digital photography.

The 91-year-old company, which had sales of almost $1 billion in 2008, has both assets and debt of less than $500 million, according to Chapter 11 papers filed Sunday in US Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware. Ritz sought court permission to tap a new $85 million loan from existing secured lenders.

Ritz has about 800 locations in more than 40 states, including the Ritz Camera chain, Wolf Camera, Kits Cameras, Inkley's, and the Camera Shops.

According to its website, in Boston, Ritz has stores in Government Center, Beacon Hill, and Copley Square. Other Massachusetts locations include Cambridgeside Galleria in Cambridge, Brookline, the South Shore Plaza in Braintree, the Metro North Retail Center in Woburn, the Burlington Mall, the North Shore Mall in Peabody, the Derby Street Shops in Hingham, the Natick Mall, the Hanover Mall, the Port Plaza Shopping Center in Newburyport, the Independence Mall in Kingston, the Emerald Square Mall in North Attleboro, the Silver City Galleria in East Taunton, the Greendale Mall in Worcester, Library Square in Falmouth, and the Cape Cod Mall in Hyannis. It has several stores in other New England states as well.

The Beltsville, Md.-based company suffered from a drop in photo printing, as well as slumping sales at its 130 Boater's World Marine Centers, which were hurt by last year's record oil prices, court papers show.

The advent of digital photography, which ended "enormous profits" from photo finishing, "proved too much of a burden, coupled with the losses experienced by the Boater's World business," Marc Weinsweig, the chief restructuring officer for the closely held company, said in court papers.

Ritz's debt includes $47.7 million on a secured revolving credit agreement and $13.1 million owing on subordinated debentures, court papers show. Including letters of credit, the bank debt increases to $54.5 million. Wachovia Bank NA is the agent for the lenders.

Ritz officials sought to diversify by launching Boater's World, a boating-and-fishing supply retailer, in 1987. The stores are located from Maine to Florida and also in Texas, California, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Nevada, according to the unit's website.

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