(CN) – The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company Inc., owner of the A&P supermarket chain, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy late Monday night, likely signaling the end of the 156-year chain.
The filing is the second Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the company in the past five years, and it says it has tentative deals with three grocery chains, including Stop and Shop, to sell 120 of its 300 stores for about $6 million each.
In its bankruptcy filing A&P said without the proposed sales, it would have no choice but to liquidate its business in “a fire sale and piecemeal fashion.”
Still, the plan leaves the future of about 180 supermarkets in New York and New Jersey very much in doubt. About 25 stores will close immediately, the company said.
A&P not only owns and operates its namesake stores, but also stores under the Waldbaums, Pathmark Food Emporium and Food Basics brands.
The grocery chain has about 28,500 employees, most of whom work part time. In its filings A&P said it has about $2.3 billion in debts and $1.6 billion in assets.
The Montvale, N.J.-based company was founded in 1859 on Vesey Street in lower Manhattan by George Huntington Hartford and George Gilman. It was originally a mail-order tea and spice business. By the early 1950s the company’s dominance prompted federal regulators to step in and breakup what they feared was fast becoming a monopoly.
Although changing tastes and the market entrance of new competitors like Whole Foods proved challenging to A&P, most analysts say it was the company’s 2007 purchase of the Pathmark chain, right before the global economic crisis, that doomed it. The company first applied for bankruptcy protection in 2010.
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