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Lenox Group files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

    

Lenox Group Inc., which makes dinnerware, gifts and collectibles, said Monday it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the latest company to succumb to the weak retail environment.

It is seeking an $85 million debtor-in-possession financing facility from its revolving lender group to pay employees, make material purchases and pay normal operating expenses.

The Eden Prairie, Minn., company will continue to conduct "business as usual," Chief Executive Marc Pfefferle said in a statement.

Lenox was called Department 56 until 2005 when it changed its name after buying Lenox Inc., a fine-china maker, to offset declining demand for its collectibles. Debt stemming from the acquisition and the weakening financial markets led to the filing, Lenox Group said.

"Our business has been significantly impacted by economic conditions and excessive debt levels incurred at the time Department 56 purchased Lenox Inc. in 2005," he said. "After exhausting all other possibilities and considering the current state of credit markets and the economy, we determined that the best way to complete a restructuring of the balance sheet and protect our franchise value was to pursue a sale of the Company under Court approval in a Chapter 11 proceeding."

Lenox trades on an over-the-counter bulletin board. It expects trading in its shares will be temporarily halted until the exchange receives more information about the company's financial condition.

The company filed with the U.S.

Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York. Its bankruptcy attorney is Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and its financial adviser is Berenson & Co.

Other retailers that have filed for bankruptcy this year include electronics retailer Circuit City Stores Inc., specialty retailer Linens 'N Things and department-store chain Mervyns LLC.

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