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America's largest Christian bookstore chain files for bankruptcy

Family Christian Stores files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection

America's biggest Christian bookstore chain, Family Christian Stores, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The Michigan company says it won't lay off any employees or close any of its stores, however.

Publishers Weekly reports that the chain, founded in 1931 as Zondervan Publishing House, "will use the bankruptcy proceedings to sell its assets to a new subsidiary formed by Family Christian Ministries." The company is in debt to several publishers, including HarperCollins Christian Publishing and Tyndale House, and has "assets of between $50 million and $100 million and liabilities in the same range."

Family Christian Stores runs 266 stores with more than 3,000 employees and operates an online store. The retailer sells books and Bibles, as well as Christian-themed gifts and music.

According to the news website Michigan Live, the company's petition to a federal court noted that bookstore sales have been declining since 2008, with annual sales dropping by $75 million in six years. The chain hopes to restructure its debt within the next two months.

The company's president and chief executive, Chuck Bengochea, said in a news release that the plan would allow the stores and website to continue operating. "We strive to serve God in all that we do and trust his guidance in all our decisions, especially this very important one," he said. "After the court approves the sale, we can begin to reinvest in our stores and bring our customers products and services that will help us better fulfill our mission - to glorify God by helping people find, grow, share and celebrate their faith in Christ."

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