Another One Bites The Dust

Mall operators hope for seamless bankputcy

The Chicago-based company that operates Water Tower Place as well as numerous other shopping malls across the country has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

General Growth Properties, The nation's second-largest mall operator, announced the move today, saying it couldn't get more time to refinance the debt it racked up during the housing boom. Documents show that General Growth had about $29.6 billion in assets and more than $27 billion in liabilities as of Dec. 31.

Chapter 11 protection typically allows a company to hold off creditors and operate as normal while it develops a financial
reorganization plan.

In a morning interview,  President and Chief Operating Officer Thomas H. Nolan Jr.  said that shoppers at company malls won't notice any changes in the operations.

"Our restructuring will be invisible to the customers who visit our properties every day," Nolan said.

While the company has shed some fat in the past year by suspendomg its dividend, halting or slowing nearly all development projects and cutting its work force by more than 20 percent, Chapeter 11 was determined to be its best option.

"While we have worked tirelessly in the past several months to address our maturing debts, the collapse of the credit markets has made it impossible for us to refinance maturing debt outside of Chapter 11," Chief Executive Adam Metz said in a statement.

The company blames, in part, the current economy and the loss of retailers for its faltering finances.

General Growth has a stake in more than 200 malls across 44 states, including Water Tower Place in Chicago, Northbrook Court in suburban Chicago and Market Place Shopping Center in Champaign.

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