Ritz files for bankruptcy

The Baltimore Sun

Ritz Camera Centers Inc., the country's largest camera-store chain, filed for bankruptcy protection, blaming the deepening 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 reorganization papers filed Sunday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del. Ritz sought court permission to tap a new $85 million loan from existing secured lenders to continue operating under the reorganization plan.

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. The Beltsville-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.

Telephone calls to the company were not returned yesterday.

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 closely held company's chief restructuring officer, 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's 30 largest unsecured creditors without collateral backing their claims are owed about $65.6 million, court papers show. The two biggest unsecured creditors are Nikon Inc., owed $26.6 million, and Canon USA Inc., owed $13.7 million.

Company executives told Maryland labor officials Feb. 10 that they would lay off 64 people at the Beltsville location.

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