The largest Christian bookstore chain in the United States has filed Chapter 11 proceedings with a plan to sell its assets to a new subsidiary. Family Christian Stores, a nonprofit based in Grand Rapids, Mich., filed February 11 listing assets and debt of less than $100 million each in Chapter 11 documents in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Grand Rapids, according to Bloomberg News. FCS had gross sales of about $216 million in 2014.
“We believe our only two options are to liquidate and shut down our stores or go through the Section 363 sale process and preserve Family Christian Stores,” explained an FAQ on the FCS website. “When faced with these two options, we strongly felt that there was only one viable path to take.”
FCS bought itself back from private equity owners in 2012 and pledged to donate 100 percent of its profits to widows and orphans. According to the company as reported by Publishers Weekly, this new subsidiary of the ministry organization will become the lead bidder for FCS assets and operations. FCS said it hopes the sale process will take 60 days. The chain does not plan on laying off any employees or closing any stores during this restructure.
“We strive to serve God in all that we do and trust His guidance in all our decisions, especially this very important one,” said Chuck Bengochea, president and CEO of FCS since the middle of last year. “We have carefully and prayerfully considered every option. This action allows us to stay in business and continue to serve our customers, our associates, our vendors and charities around the world.”
FCS, which traces its roots back to 1931, has 266 stores in operation in the U.S. and employs more than 3,100 people. To compare, LifeWay Christian Resources has 185 stores in 29 states.
“Our customers will not see any change in operations during this process. After the court approves the sale, we can begin to reinvest in our stores and bring our customers products and services that will help us better fulfill our mission—to glorify God by helping people find, grow, share and celebrate their faith in Christ,” Bengochea said.
In a video message (below), Bengochea named the recession, the digital revolution, and the company’s debt load as factors leading to FCS’s bankruptcy. “I wish that we had alternatives but we do not,” he said.