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Montgomery Ward to End Operations After 128 Years

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Montgomery Ward

, one of the country's largest and oldest retailers, filed for bankruptcy after "an exhaustive exploration of options" for its 128-year-old business.

The Chicago-based retailer, which was founded in 1872 as the world's first general merchandise mail order catalog business, said it filed the voluntary bankruptcy petition in the U.S. bankruptcy court in Delaware.

The company said "overall weak holiday sales and a very difficult retail environment simply did not permit us to complete the turnaround that might have been possible in an otherwise thriving economy."

In addition, Montgomery Ward said it previously suspended further unpaid vendor deliveries and will immediately eliminate about 450 national office jobs. The company expects to close its 250 stores and 10 distribution centers in 30 states over the next several months, with staff reductions taking place during the first and second quarters of 2001.

In August 1999, the chain emerged from more than two years of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after

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unit that already owned a stake in the company, bought the rest of the operations.

GE Capital also issued a statement, saying that the retailer's filing "will have no material effect on GE Capital Services' ability" to meet its anticipated earnings.