Belle Foods’ 44 remaining stores will go up for sale to help pay down the $42 million debt the Birmingham, Ala.-based retailer owes creditors, including C&S Wholesale Grocers Inc.
In a debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing deal that was reached by its largest creditor C&S and that was approved by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Belle Foods will sell all of its 44 stores while C&S extends the debtor in possession financing to Belle Foods to allow its grocery stores to continue operating until the sales can be completed by Oct. 4. The bankruptcy court previously granted a July 2, 2013, motion to close or sell the company’s 13 other stores.
Belle’s father-and-son owners, Bill and Jeff White, will be able to join other bidders to try to buy and maintain some of the stores. However, C&S will take the best offers on the stores to help satisfy Belle Foods’ debt.
Belle’s owners said they agreed to sell the 44 stores because they believe it presents the best opportunity to maximize value for the benefit of its creditors while maximizing the health of the individual stores. “At this point, this is the best way to serve our customers, preserve jobs for our employees and support our communities,” said Bill White. “We expect these stores to be sold as on-going operations and will work with any new owners to see that our people remain employed. We have some of the best and most experienced grocery professionals in the south working in our stores,” White added.
Belle will appoint a chief restructuring officer (CRO) to assist the company during the bankruptcy process to maximize the value of the stores for all parties involved. Both Bill and Jeff White will stay on with the company for a period of time to assist with the CRO’s transition and will also remain available thereafter to assist and consult with the CRO as needed.
“It would be great if Belle Foods were to exist in some form or fashion at the end of this process,” noted While, “but at this point, our focus is on our customers and teammates.”