As noted earlier, Borders has done the expected: they filed for bankruptcy this morning. I first heard about it on the local news. Early as it was, there was little hard information available at the time. Since then, more information about the filing is coming to light.
Let’s start with Borders itself. It has put up a special webpage to address what’s happened as well as adding information on its investor relations page. The first is exactly what you’d expect it to be — an announcement that all is well, despite the filing and that nothing is really going to change. What it doesn’t mention is the fact that Borders owes more than it is worth or the fact that it is planning on closing approximately 30% of its stores (more on that shortly). The information on the investor relations page is basically the press release announcing the filing and plans to reorganize.
Over the next several weeks, Borders plans to close something in the neighborhood of 200 of its 639 stores. Shelf Awareness reports the number will be 200 whereas Bloomberg suggests it could be as many as 275 stores. The closures are based upon “a reflection of economic conditions, cost structures and viability of locations, among other factors” (Shelf Awareness). As a result, thousands of employees will lose their jobs. It is important to note, however, that while the closings have been announced, they are not yet written in stone. The bankruptcy court will have to approve the action.
According to the bankruptcy filing, Borders claims it costs $2 million a week to keep the stores listed for closure open. If the court grants the motion to close these stores — and the emergency motion filed by Borders to liquidate furniture and stock — Borders hopes to begin the liquidation in time for Presidents Day weekend.
As expected, a large portion of Borders’ debt is owed to its vendors, including publishers. Of the outstanding debt listed in the filings, $178.8 million is owed to vendors and publishers. Another $18.6 million is owed to landlords. How much of this debt will be repaid is unknown despite the fact Borders says in the supporting documentation to its filing that it expect funds will be available to distribute among these creditors.
To give you an idea of how this may impact the publishing industry, according to Publishers Lunch, of the top 30 unsecured creditors, book publishers and distributors are owed something in the neighborhood of $230 million. Some of the specific debts listed in the filing are:
- Penguin: $41.1 million
- Hachette Book Group: $36.9 million
- Simon & Schuster: $33.75 million
- Random House: $33.5 million
- HarperCollins: $25.8 million
- Macmillan: $11.4 million
- Wiley: $11.2 million
- Perseus: $7.8 million
- F+W Media: $4.6 million
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: $4.4 million
- Workman: $4 million
- McGraw-Hill: $3.1 million
- Pearson Education: $2.8 million
- NBN: $2 million
- Norton: $2 million
- Zondervan: $1.9 million
- Hay House: $1.7 million
- Elsevier Science: $1.6 million
- Publications Intl.: $1.1 million
The NYSE suspended trading of Borders stock at the closing bell yesterday. At that time, the stock was selling for 23 cents a share, close to its all-time low. The NYSE is now in the process of de-listing the stock.
Because of its connection with Borders, Kobo has assured its customers and owners of its e-book readers that their e-books are safe. They have even posted a new FAQ of sorts on the Kobo blog. There are two important things to note in this FAQ: 1) Kobo assures its customers that the e-books they purchased through Borders are in their bookshelf and are safe, even if Borders should go under; and 2) “Borders is an important book retailer in the US market, but its ebook sales represents a minority of Kobo’s worldwide sales.” So, at least for the time being, those of you with a Kobo e-reader, or with books bought through Borders.com will see no change in availability or support.
This is a story that isn’t going to be over for a long time. I hope Borders does manage to find its way out of bankruptcy. Even if it does, I worry about the impact of its debt on the rest of the publishing world. I’ll do my best to keep you updated but, for now, my thoughts are with those who work at the stores currently targeted for closure.
For more information, check out the sites linked above:
- Shelf Awareness
- New York Times
- Wall Street Journal
- Listing of store closures