Circuit City became the largest retailer to fall victim to the expanding financial crisis Friday, announcing it will shut down its remaining 567 U.S. stores at the cost of 34,000 more jobs after failing to sell the business.
The closure of the nation's second-biggest consumer electronics retailer spells more trouble for the nations malls, and is the latest casualty of an unprecedented pullback in consumer spending that has claimed KB Toys, Mervyns LLC and Linens 'N Things.
"Very, very sad," said Alan L. Wurtzel, son of company founder Samuel S. Wurtzel and himself a former chief executive of Circuit City. "I feel particularly badly for the people who are employed or until recently were employed."
Richmond, Va.-based Circuit City had been seeking a buyer or a deal to refinance its debt, but the hobbled credit market and consumer worries proved insurmountable. Negotiations for an acquisition extended past midnight Thursday before finally falling through, Circuit City lawyer Gregg Galardi said.
Two potential buyers — Mexican billionaire Ricardo Salinas Pliego, who controls a chain of electronics stores in Latin America, and the Golden Gate Capital private equity firm — considered a shrunken form of the business, retaining as many 350 stores or as few as 180. But Circuit City couldn't secure the necessary financing or support from vendors.
"This is the only possible path for our company," acting Chief Executive James A. Marcum said in a statement. "We are extremely disappointed by this outcome."
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Huennekens gave final approval to the liquidation plan Friday afternoon. Some employees were notified that they would lose their jobs and certain stores would begin close-out sales as early as Saturday.