Ritz Camera Liquidation Approved After Second Bankruptcy

Ritz Camera & Image LLC, once the largest U.S. chain of specialty camera shops, won court permission to liquidate after failing to find a buyer willing to keep the business and its remaining 137 stores open.

“We were disappointed that we couldn’t find a bidder to continue the business as a going concern,” Irving Walker, a company attorney, told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross today in Wilmington, Delaware.

The founding family failed for the second time in three years to turn around the 94-year-old retailer. Ritz was unable to adjust as consumers abandoned film that had to be dropped off at a store for processing, in favor of digital cameras that allowed home printing and online photo-sharing.

On Sept. 6, Ritz held an auction that was designed to either sell the company as a going concern, or sell the right to liquidate the chain through going-out-of-business sales.

The auction was won by a partnership of two liquidation companies that have helped to close down several U.S. retailers -- Hilco Merchant Resources LLC and Gordon Brothers Retail Partners LLC.

In 2009, David Ritz and other members of the founding family bought the chain out of bankruptcy. The company tried to restructure, partly by refinancing debt and raising new capital.

Transom RCI Holdings LLC last year provided Ritz with $8 million in a deal that made the Ritz family a minority owner.

Ritz, based in Beltsville, Maryland, had about 1,960 employees when it filed for bankruptcy in June.

The case is Ritz Camera & Image LLC, 12-11868, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

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