Beltsville, Md. - Ritz Camera CEO David Ritz said he is confident that his namesake retail chain will emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a going concern.
In a statement issued this afternoon, Ritz confirmed that the company is negotiating with two potential buyers, either one of which would continue operations.
According to the statement, Ritz Camera "takes issue with recent press characterizations of its decision to seek bids for the business," as was indicated in bankruptcy court documents.
The company said its decision to proceed with an asset sale "is a normal and customary means of facilitating an exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy," and that the asset sale and upcoming auction on July 20 is simply the next step toward completing its Chapter 11 proceeding.
The cash-strapped camera chain, which filed for bankruptcy in February, closed half of its 800 camera stores and shut its 130-unit Boater's World chain of water sports stores in a recently concluded fire sale that began in March.
Despite the actions, which lowered its costs and increased its liquidity, the company indicated it is unable to fund operations through the summer or purchase inventory for the fall holiday season.
According to a motion filed earlier this month with the federal bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Del., Ritz is hopeful it will reach an agreement with one of the two bidders, but will conduct an open auction for essentially all of its assets should the parties fail to reach an agreement.
Ritz, the nation's largest specialty camera and imaging products chain, filed for bankruptcy protection amid declines in its camera and boating businesses and demands by lenders to boost its reserves. The chain includes the Ritz Camera, Wolf Camera, Kits Camera, Inkley's and The Camera Shop store brands.
The privately held business began in 1918 as an Atlantic City portrait studio founded by Benjamin Cohen. His grandson, current chairman, president and CEO David Ritz, led the 2001 acquisition of cousin Chuck Wolf's chain, Wolf Camera, which raised the store count to over 800 locations in more than 40 states.
The company raised more than $40 million from its Boater's World fire sales, and was expected to sell some $50 million in close-out imaging inventory, which included digital cameras and accessories, d-SLR compact cameras, digital frames, binoculars, camcorders and video accessories.
The sales were conducted by the same joint venture that liquidated Circuit City's stores, comprised of Great American Group, SB Capital Group, Tiger Capital Group and Hudson Capital Partners.