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Shoe firm seeks help; Westboro-based company files for Chapter 11.

Byline: Lisa Eckelbecker

WESTBORO - Iron Age Corp. of Westboro, a privately held company that sells safety shoes, filed yesterday for bankruptcy protection while it reorganizes its business.

The Chapter 11 filing was made in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Worcester and included a separate bankruptcy petition from the company's Canadian subsidiary, Iron Age Canada Ltd.

With about 460 employees at the U.S. and Canadian operations and stores across North America, Iron Age reported in a court filing that it encountered liquidity issues in late 2006 and decided that a sale of the business or its assets would be the best option.

David A. Eckert, chief executive of Iron Age, did not respond yesterday to messages left on his business and cell phones. Iron Age is scheduled for a hearing at 9 a.m. today in Bankruptcy Court in Worcester.

Until recently, Iron Age was based in Pittsburgh. The company's current headquarters is at 200 Freiberg Parkway.

In its filing, Iron Age reported it possessed between $1 million and $100 million in assets, and the same amount in liabilities. The company reported owing millions of dollars to shoe vendors, including more than $2.4 million in unsecured claims to The Timberland Co. of Chicago.

Iron Age sells the kind of sturdy shoes that workers in industry need, such as steel-toed boots. The company runs stores and pushcarts, sells through the Internet and catalogs and sometimes operates small stores within plants. Iron Age "shoe mobiles" visit plants at the request of employers, and Iron Age said it often sells shoes to workers but bills their employers.

In Massachusetts, according to the company's Web site, Iron Age has a store in Mansfield. The company's distribution center is in Penn Yan, N.Y.

In the fiscal year that ended Jan. 28, 2006, Iron Age posted revenue of nearly $85.1 million, the company said in its bankruptcy filing. Revenues for the 2007 fiscal year are projected to total $75 million, Iron Age reported.

But the company's filing also showed that Iron Age signed a number of loan and credit agreements in September 2006. The company reported that the agreements left it liable for millions of dollars. Under one agreement with GMAC Commercial Finance LLC, Iron Age was liable for more than $21 million, and the financing was secured by the assets of the business, Iron Age said in its filing.

Contact business reporter Lisa Eckelbecker by e-mail at leckelbecker@telegram.com.
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Title Annotation:BUSINESS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jan 23, 2007
Words:408
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