Chapter 11 Watch: Sears Watch, Restaurant Woes And Kim Kardashian’s Bodyguard

Failing Retail Wheel And Deal
The latest in bankruptcy filings.

A week after a report from Fitch Ratings named Sears Holding Corp. as one of seven major retailers who could face bankruptcy over the next two years, Sears CEO Eddie Lampert apparently felt the need to write a public blog post stating that the company had no plans to shut its Kmart stores, despite rumors to the contrary.

“Recent reports have suggested that Kmart will cease its operations. I can tell you that there are no plans, and there have never been any plans, to close the Kmart format,” Lambert apparently felt the need to blog this week. “To report or suggest otherwise is irresponsible and is likely intended to do harm to our company to the benefit of those who seek to gain advantage from posting these inaccurate reports.”

It’s an interesting move for the once-iconic Kmart brand, especially since those stores have been pretty much circling the drain since Sears acquired them in 2004.

And now comes news of Sears’ plans to sell off its well-known Craftsman line of tools to the highest bidder. The tool line could fetch upwards of $2 billion.

Many will be watching Sears’ fortunes over the next year or so to determine just how accurate that Fitch report really was.

Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp., the holding company of such restaurant chains as Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes, may have already found a buyer to rescue it from its recent bankruptcy. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, Cortland Capital Market Services LLC, which holds about $35.7 million of Garden Fresh Restaurant’s debt, has submitted a “stalking horse bid” to buy the company out of bankruptcy. Garden Fresh has attributed the downturn in its business to a combination of lower earnings and rising costs in employee wages, health care and rents.

It’s been a busy week for restaurant bankruptcies, as, on top of Garden Fresh and Cosi both filing this week, those restaurants were joined by the Don Pablo’s chain of Tex-Mex restaurants.

According to USA Today, Don Pablo’s operated 120 locations in the U.S. and was the second-largest Mexican restaurant chain. However, increasing competition from new competitors in the field has eaten into its market share in recent years, and the company now only lists restaurants in nine Eastern and Midwestern states.

Don Pablo’s bankruptcy attorney, John Mitchell, said in court documents filed on Tuesday (Oct. 4) in San Antonio that the restaurant has between $1 million and $10 million in liabilities and has been adversely affected by the rise in fast-casual dining options from the rise of Mexican chains, like Moe’s Southwest Grill, Qdoba and Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Hanjin Shipping Co., the bankrupt South Korean shipper, is facing even more woes, apparently, as The Wall Street Journal reported that emptied shipping containers have piled up and are causing “headaches” by occupying warehouses, parking lots and shipping trailers at ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach that could be used to store and move other shipping containers filled with merchandise for the holiday shopping season.

In other bankruptcy news, Bank Standard, a mid-sized financial institution servicing the country of Azerbaijan — which lies between Russia and Iran — has been declared bankrupt and has had its licensed revoked, according to a Reuters report. The Azeri Deposit Insurance Fund is acting as the bank’s liquidator and has received the equivalent of $288 million from the country’s central bank to secure deposits.

And in an interesting development in the $10 million Kim Kardashian Paris robbery saga, it appears that Kim’s longtime personal bodyguard — Pascal Duvier — filed for bankruptcy protection less than three months before the reality TV star was tied up and robbed at gunpoint in her Paris hotel room, according to numerous media reports on Thursday (Oct. 6).

According to New York Daily News, 43-year-old Duvier filed for bankruptcy protection in his native Germany on July 22, citing about $1.2 million in debt for his ProtectSecurity company.

Duvier wasn’t present during the infamous robbery last week and was instead said to be providing security for Kim’s sisters, Kendall Jenner and Kourtney Kardashian, at a nearby party during Paris Fashion Week.