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All 73 Venture Stores to Go Dark; Kmart Acquiring Most of Leases.

All 73 units in the Venture Stores Inc. chain will go dark by the end of the summer.

The O'Fallon, Mo.-based discounter, in bankruptcy proceedings since January, disclosed last week that it will sell and assign the leases to most of its stores and other real estate to Kimco Realty Corp. for at least $95 million in cash.

Included are some of the 20 sites that had been earmarked for closure earlier this year.

Venture said Kimco is finalizing an agreement to "lease a majority of the stores to Kmart Corp." and has preliminary commitments from other retailers to take over other Venture locations. Kimco could not be reached for comment.

A Kmart spokeswoman declined to disclose the number of sites Kmart expects to lease from Kimco but confirmed that all will be converted to Big Kmart formats. Last year, Kmart converted 20 former Venture stores in Texas to Big Kmart stores.

The spokeswoman said Kmart probably will spend about $600,000 per store in renovations. She expects the Big Kmart stores to open by the end of the year, provided Kmart takes possession of the locations in the summer.

Floyd Hall, Kmart's chairman, president and CEO, said in the Venture statement the "addition of these stores offers us the ability to add first-rate facilities and locations to our real estate portfolio, to increase market share with subsequent economies of scale and the opportunity to employ experienced professional discount store associates from the Venture organization."

Going-out-of-business sales are expected to start by mid-May. Venture said it has the support of its creditors' committee. A bankruptcy court hearing is set for June 1.

Proceeds from the Kimco transaction and GOB sales will be used to discharge Venture's obligations to its creditors.

Robert N. Wildrick, Venture's chairman and CEO, said in a statement: "We're very happy to have been able to structure a deal with Kimco that will provide job opportunities for as many of our associates as possible, while ensuring that Venture's creditors get the highest possible payout."

Venture employs about 7,500 employees. The majority are sales associates and Venture said it expects them to have the "opportunity to take jobs with Kmart and the other retailers who move into its locations."

Positions at Venture's corporate headquarters and two distribution centers, however, will be eliminated.
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Author:Young, Vicki M.
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:May 4, 1998
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