Montgomery Ward to Close After 128 Years

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Montgomery Ward, one of the first general-merchandise catalog companies, yesterday said it would cease operations citing weak holiday sales.

Founded as a catalog company in 1872, it filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Court for the district of Delaware. The company originally filed for bankruptcy in 1997.

"Today's [Dec. 28] filing comes after an exhaustive exploration of options for continuing the business," said Roger Goddu, chairman/CEO of Montgomery Ward, Chicago. "Overall weak holiday sales and a very difficult retail environment simply did not permit us to complete the turnaround that might have been possible in an otherwise thriving economy."

The company yesterday said it would suspend further unpaid vendor deliveries and eliminate 450 national office jobs. Montgomery Ward will close 250 stores and 10 distribution centers over the next several months.

The company, which is a fully owned subsidiary of General Electric Co.'s GE Capital, employs 37,000 people nationwide.

The retailer opened its first free-standing store in 1926.

Montgomery Ward merged with Container Corp. of America to form Marcor Inc., which was acquired by Mobil Oil Corp. in 1976.

The company ended its catalog operations in 1985 and launched a specialty store strategy that included Electric Avenue and Auto Express. Three years later, senior Montgomery Ward management completed a $3.8 billion leveraged buyout of the company.

GE Capital took ownership in August 1999.

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