Belle Foods LLC and C&S Wholesale Grocers Inc. have reached an agreement for debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing to be extended by C&S to Belle, a move that has been approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Alabama. As part of the DIP financing arrangement, Belle agreed to the motion filed with the court to sell 44 stores. The bankruptcy court previously granted a July 2 motion by Belle to close or sell its 13 other stores.
Belle has agreed to sell the 44 stores because it believes selling the stores presents the best opportunity to maximize value for its creditors. Bill and Jeff White, the owners of Belle, have retained the right to submit bids for the purchase of the stores. C&S has agreed to continue supplying the stores, ensuring that the stores will remain open. The DIP financing and the C&S supply commitment extend through at least Oct. 4.
Birmingham-based Belle Foods says its goal is to maximize the health of the individual stores.
“At this point, this is the best way to serve our customers, preserve jobs for our employees and support our communities,” said Bill White, owner and president of Belle. “We expect these stores to be sold as ongoing operations, and we’ll work with any new owners to see that our people remain employed. We have some of the best and most experienced grocery professionals in the South working in our stores.”
A chief restructuring officer (CRO) will be employed to assist Belle in maximizing the value of the stores for all parties involved, the company said. The Whites, who are father and son, have agreed to stay with the company for a period of time in order to assist with the CRO’s transition, and have also agreed to thereafter remain available to assist and consult with the CRO as needed.
“It would be great if Belle Foods were to exist in some form or fashion at the end of this process, but at this point, our focus is on our customers and teammates,” said father Bill White. “Customers will continue to see the same smiling employees and the same great selection and convenience as the stores move through the sale process.”
Currently, all of the 44 remaining Belle-owned stores in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi are open for business.
Prior to today’s announcement, it was widely reported that Belle only planned to sell only 12 stores.