The grocery chain Fresh and Easy Neighborhood Market Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to sell itself at auction with an affiliate of billionaire Ron Burkle’s Yacaipa Cos. as the lead bidder. Fresh and Easy is a subsidiary of Britain’s Tesco and is Britain’s largest supermarket chain.
Fresh and Easy was looking to enter the U.S. with hopes of competing with U.S. food retailers. Unfortunately, Fresh and Easy entered the U.S. southwest as the regions real estate market and economy began to cool in 2008. The company now has a debt of as much as $1 billion and assets of as much as $500 million. Under the proposed deal, a Tesco affiliate will loan the Yucaipa affiliate $120 million to help fund the takeover.
Owners of businesses are always on the lookout for growth opportunities for their companies, but business growth can put a strain on a company’s cash flow and assets. A poorly timed investment can make it difficult or impossible for a business to cover operating expenses and pay creditors. In this case, Fresh and Easy built the chain quickly and the leases were substantially higher than the market price. The rapid expansion ended up costing them greatly when the real estate market dropped.
A commercial bankruptcy offers a business the opportunity to continue to operate while it reorganizes itself under the protection of the bankruptcy court through a Chapter 11 business bankruptcy. Fortunately, Fresh and Easy can cancel unwanted leases easier in bankruptcy court rather than outside of court protection.
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