Final Chapter: Liquidation brings sad end to major bookseller

The signs say it all at the downtown Ann Arbor location for Borders, a once high-flying company that is nearing the end of the road.

By Kurt Anthony Krug
Legal News

An end of an era approaches as liquidation sales continue across the nation at Borders Books and Music stores.

The 40-year-old Ann Arbor-based bookseller hasn’t turned a profit since 2006, having lost $605 million in the last four fiscal years.

In February of this year, Borders Group, Inc. - which oversees all Borders stores - filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Borders has $1.275 billion in assets and $1.293 billion in debts.

As a result of Chapter 11, Borders closed down more than 200 stores. During its five months in Chapter 11, only 399 stores remained (259 Borders super-stores, 114 Borders Express and Waldenbooks, and 26 Borders airport outlet stores) and 10,700 people were employed.

Also in that period, Borders attempted to reorganize its business model and reinvent itself. Elements of this plan included aggressively growing; expanding its eBook market share; expanding and enhancing its retail offerings (including non-book items); and promoting Borders Rewards Plus, its loyalty program that boasted 40 million members last year, per the bookseller’s web-site.

At the same time, Borders executives were looking to find a buyer.

Last month, a bid from Arizona-based private equity firm Najafi Companies fell through. There were talks that 30-35 Borders stores could be sold to rival bookseller
Alabama-based Books-a-Million, but that also fell through. Once Borders goes out of business, Books-a-Million will become the No. 2 bookseller in the nation (Barnes & Noble -
Borders’ main rival - is No. 1).

On July 21 in Manhattan, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge approved Borders’ liquidation plan since a buyer could not be found.

Consequently, Borders went from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7, which is when a troubled business badly in debt isn’t able to pay its creditors and debts files for bankruptcy in a federal court.

Liquidation firms Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Group are currently selling Borders’ remaining assets, holding going-out-of-business sales at all Borders stores, which began July 22.

“We come here a lot. It’s very disappointing,” said Lauren Anastos, 22, of Farmington Hills.

She and her brother Drew, 14, took advantage of the sales at the Novi store July 22, where the parking lot was nigh filled to capacity as was the case across Borders stores all over Metro Detroit.

Currently, sales at Borders stores are 40-60 percent off on all its products. Even furniture and fixtures are selling at a discounted rate. All stores are slated to close their doors for the final time in September.

Mike Edwards, president of Borders Group, released a statement that read: “All of us have been working hard towards a different outcome, and I wish I had better news to report to you today. The truth is that Borders has been facing headwinds for quite some time, including a rapidly changing book industry, eReader revolution, and turbulent economy. We put in a valiant fight, but regrettably in the end we weren’t able to overcome these external forces.”

Borders was founded in 1971 by brothers Tom and Louis Borders, who were University of Michigan students.

Originally called Borders Book Shop, it was located in a 800-square-foot building on South State Street in downtown Ann Arbor (currently, Borders in downtown Ann Arbor is located at Liberty and Maynard in what was once Jacobson’s Department Store — another defunct Michigan-based business — and is considered the flagship store).

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