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Borders seeks OK to liquidate

Updated: July 19, 2011 2:09AM

There will be no storybook ending for Borders. The 40-year-old book seller could start liquidating its 399 stores as early as Friday.

The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based chain, which helped pioneer the big-box bookseller concept, is seeking court approval to liquidate after it failed to receive any bids that would keep it in business. The move adds Borders to the list of retailers that have failed to adapt to changing consumers’ shopping habits and survive the economic downturn, including Circuit City Stores Inc., Blockbuster and Linens ‘N Things.

On Thursday, Borders is expected to ask the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of New York at a scheduled hearing to allow it to be sold to liquidators led by Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Group. If the judge approves the move, liquidation sales could start as soon as Friday; the company could go out of business by the end of September.

At the Borders on State Street, fans of the big-box book store were saddened by the news.

“I’ve been going to this Borders since it opened,” said Ramon Robinson, 27, of Morgan Park. “I’ve been meeting people here since I was a student at Whitney Young. . . . If you’re getting ready to see a show or have time before a concert, you get off the Red Line and there’s Borders.”

“It’s hard — where do you go for books? The library doesn’t have the novelty and the feeling of freshness and innovative ideas from the new books. I don’t know what I’ll do,” said Robinson. “I suppose I’ll buy a Kindle.”

Borders Group Inc., based in Ann Arbor, Mich., filed for bankruptcy protection in February, and shuttered half of its 30-plus stores in the Chicago area. Borders currently operates about 400 stores, down from its peak in 2003 of 1,249 Borders and Waldenbooks, and has about 11,000 employees.

Borders had been seeking a new white knight bidder after a $215 million bid by private-equity firm Najafi Cos. dissolved late last week. Creditors and lenders argued the chain would be worth more if it liquidated immediately.

Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Group will liquidate the chain under terms of the agreement.

Borders said it is could not provide details on how store gift cards will be affected by the liquidation.

Mike Mangan, 68, of Mount Prospect said he came to the Borders on State when he worked in the Loop, and still does when he comes downtown.

“I came for the selection of books, the size of the stock,” said Mike Mangan, 68, Mount Prospect. “...I guess they just can’t compete with online sales — I bought my last 10 books on my Kindle, so I’m part of the problem.”

AP with Staff Reporters Ariel Cheung, Sandra Guy contributing

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