All Sports Authority stores to be liquidated and closed

Staff and wire reports

Sports Authority will close all of its more than 450 stores across the United States after the bankrupt company was unable to secure a buyer, according to a new court filing.

The liquidation includes all 11 Maryland stores, four of which already were to close as a result of the bankruptcy.

The Colorado-based retailer, once the largest sporting-goods chain in the country with stores in 41 states and Puerto Rico, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March with the intention to restructure. But the retailer was unable to reach an agreement with creditors and lenders and was instead sold at auction.

A group of liquidation companies purchased Sports Authority's assets. The leases for its stores will be sold off.

It is unclear when stores will close. When it filed for bankruptcy, the chain announced it would close 140 stores, including the four in Maryland, as part of its plan to restructure by slimming down. Those closures were to take three months.

Going-out-of-business sales could start Wednesday at all the stores and continue until Aug. 31, according to court filings.

In Maryland, stores in Catonsville, Columbia, Gaithersburg and Waldorf already were slated to close and had begun selling off merchandise. Sports Authority also has stores in Towson, White Marsh, Laurel, Bowie, Frederick, Landover and Rockville.

The retailer reported $3.5 billion in revenue last year and employs 16,000 people. Representatives from Sports Authority declined to comment.

Like other big-box retailers, Sports Authority had struggled in recent years with new competitors online and in the brick-and-mortar sphere.

Sports Authority was founded in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 1987 and was acquired by Kmart in 1990. In 2006, the company was bought by a private equity firm. That buyout saddled it with $1.1 billion in debt that contributed to the need to file for bankruptcy.

Sports Authority holds the corporate naming rights to Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the stadium where the NFL's Denver Broncos play. The rights went unsold at the bankruptcy auction.

Sports Authority was a key customer of Baltimore-based Under Armour, which generates most of its sales through wholesale channels to retailers. Under Armour was owed $23.2 million at the time of the bankruptcy filing, when the brand had said it was not "materially impacted" by the payments owed.

The sports apparel maker had said it planned to offset the bankruptcy's impact through continued sales to the retailer and through other channels and customers.

An executive for Sports Authority rival Dick's Sporting Goods told analysts during a conference call on its earnings that the retailer wants to acquire about 20 of Sports Authority's leases, according to a report in The Denver Post.

"There's a small group of stores we would love to get," said Dick's CEO Edward W. Stack.

Dick's has stores in Bel Air, White Marsh, Hunt Valley, Westminster, Columbia, Glen Burnie and Crofton.

Baltimore Sun reporter Lorraine Mirabella, The Tampa Bay Times and Tribune News Service contributed to this article.

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