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NY supermarket chain sees Chapter 11 as tool for growth

"Somebody had to go," says a grocery industry analyst.

That entity turned out to be long-time supermarket chain Tops Friendly Markets, which operates scores of stores in New York and adjoining states. Tops, which is headquartered near Buffalo, opened its first store in 1952.

Company management has opted to face the future via corporate bankruptcy, with key executives exuding confidence that a Chapter 11 filing will help Tops overcome present challenges and prosper as never before in the future. Tops CEO Frank Curci says that "we expect to substantially reduce our debt and achieve long-term financial stability."

The above "has to go" reference is limited to Tops' western New York operations, where a number of company stores face overwhelming competition from Walmart and the Wegmans supermarket chain. Tops principals say that the company is strong overall and can emerge from Chapter 11 with bright prospects.

There is still much to work through before -- and if -- that vision is realized, though. The company's complex reorganization plan must be confirmed by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, which will closely oversee all material elements of Tops' proposed financial restructuring.

As we note on our business law website at the established Manhattan commercial bankruptcy firm of Rich Michaelson Magaliff, LLP, Chapter 11 outcomes vary widely from case to case. In some instances, a filing can enable an enterprise to efficiently terminate business operation. At other times, Chapter 11 can "lay the groundwork for a long-running and successful business." Tops management is clearly banking on the latter scenario.

We welcome contacts to the firm concerning bankruptcy-related questions and other business law queries.

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