Beltsville, Md. - A group led by Ritz Camera Centers CEO David Ritz out-bid two other parties in a bankruptcy auction yesterday to retain control of his namesake imaging chain.
The new company, to be renamed Ritz Camera & Image (RCI), plans to keep most of its approximately 375 remaining stores open, and will maintain its Ritz, Wolf, Kits, Inkley's and The Camera Shop brands.
According to Ritz marketing director Bob Devita, the auction, held yesterday in New York, became a three-way contest between Ritz's RCI group; Ilex Capital, a Baltimore-based private equity firm; and liquidators Hilco and Gordon Bros.
"We're all very happy here, and are poised to re-energize the company and return to profitability," Devita said.
The cash-strapped camera chain, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February, put itself on the auction block earlier this month, citing insufficient funds to continue operations through the summer.
The acquisition will allow Ritz to shed its debt burden and emerge from bankruptcy protection. The sale is expected to be approved by the federal bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Del., on Thursday.
"In today's world of continued challenges on the retail landscape and the ongoing news of one failure after another, it is refreshing to see a company fight and survive against all the odds," the company said in a statement. "From all the associates and managers who have remained intact throughout all the challenges since February 22, 2009, a great cheer and offer of gratitude [go out] to David for doing something many leaders in business today would not. In the final analysis, the privilege to continue to offer the consumer a choice in the specialty photo channel is a big win for the consumer, manufacturers and the associates and managers at Ritz Camera."