$51M bid keeps smaller Ritz Camera in family: Update

In a deal that recalls last year's Boscov rescue, David Ritz's $51 million offer has won a marathon 25-hour auction to regain control of what's left of the bankrupt Ritz Camera Centers Inc. and Camera Shop chains over rival bidders who wanted to liquidate the firm, Ritz and one of his investment bankers, J. Scott Victor of SSG Capital Advisors LLC, told me.

NEW DETAILS: The offer, by Ritz's RCI Acquisition LLC, includes $16 million in cash, $7.5 million in a short-term note financed by the seller, $17 million in assumed liabilities, and $10 million in real estate available for liquidation.

Some stores will likely close. Of the 375 remaining Ritz stores, down from 800 at the chain's peak, "the target is to operate 263 stores across the US," and "the minimum is 164 stores under the purchase agreement," said Victor, who helped colleagues Michael Goodman and Matthew Karlson close the deal.

EARLIER: "We did it on a lot of adrenalin, and coffee. I didn't know we were going to win, until the end," Victor told me after creditors for the bankrupt chain agreed to Ritz's price, pending a hearing before U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Mary Walrath in Wilmington tomorrow (Thursday). The auction was hosted at the offices of the Cooley Goddard law firm in New York, which represents creditors.

"I got a million things to do" before facing the judge, said Ritz, whose family founded the chain in Atlantic City 80 years ago. It includes three Center City locations plus Ardmore, Cherry Hill, Exton, Glen Mills, Havertown, Kennett, King of Prussia, Moorestown, Montgomeryville, Newtown, Paoli, Wilmington, among others. 

Rival bidders included Hilco Trading - Gordon Bros. Group, and initial stalking horse bidder Ilex-Great American. "We were competing against liquidators," Victor said.

Lawyers Irv Walker and Norman Pernick of Cole Schotz (formerly at Saul Ewing) represented the company. Derek Abbott of Morris Nichols in Wilmington represented RCI.

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