Ritz Camera and Image LLC's second liquidation in three years will shut most of the 94-year-old, Atlantic City-founded chain's remaining 140 stores, down from at least 800 in the early 2000s, and 300 Ritz- and Wolf-brand outlets on the eve of the 2009 reorganization.
At that time, founding-family descendant David Ritz, ex-Moe's Southwest Grill boss Stephen LaMastra and other Ritz reorganizers were able to convince PNC Bank and Verizon Corp. to commit $52 million to rebuild the chain around phone- and digital-based printing services.
But the new effort struggled, as desktop publishing costs collapsed and amateur photographers went into do-it-yourself mode. California-based turnaround-buyout investor Transom Capital Group, backed by Mark Bruten's Radnor Capital Corp. and others, bought in last year and tried to negotiate debt forbearance with affiliates of Nikon, Canon and other financial creditors.
When that failed, and other investors weren't forthcoming, it was time to liquidate, J. Scott Victor of investment bankers SSG (Special Situations Group), of West Conshohocken, told me.
A team led by SSG's Michael Goodman helped arrange the sale of Ritz assets to liquididators Hilco Merchant Services and Gordon Brothers Retail Partners and Harry Klein's Ridgefield, NJ-based camera distributor, C&A Marketing "They plan to keep a few of the stores," Victor told me, which Klein confirmed in this statement.
More important, C&A also plans to keep Ritz's RitzPix business."This is a major online imaging business that can do anything from standard prints, photo restoration, large size printing, medium format film processing, custom book printing and more with a full size Lab in Hapeville, GA," according to C&A.
"Along with the Ritz Camera name, C&A will also maintain additional retailers Camera World, Wolf Camera, Photo Alley, Kits Cameras and The Camera Shop, all of which have been acquired by Ritz in recent years. The C&A acquisition will be a majority of the Ritz Camera business."