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CHICAGO-Rumors of Montgomery Ward Inc.’s coming demise, which dogged the venerable retailer this Christmas season, have proven true. Only three days after the end of a disappointing holiday selling season for the Chicago-based Wards–2% over last year, according to company reports–parent company General Electric’s GE Capital Unit decided to quit its financial support of the company.

Montgomery Ward CEO Roger Goddu called the action “unavoidable” in a prepared statement, and further noted that weak holiday sales in 2000 were the last straw. The retailer, which operates 250 stores in 31 states, employing roughly 37,000 people, will file for bankruptcy and close all of its stores by the second quarter of 2001. The company has had a difficult time of it in recent years, emerging from a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in 1999 after closing about 100 stores.

Part of that re-organization was a sell-off that allowed the development of 500,000-sf e-port, a high-tech space being built from the former Wards Catalog Warehouse on the Chicago River. Currently, Wards occupies a high-rise building nearby, which will presumably add its leaseable space to market once Wards closes its doors for good.

GE Capital reportedly pumped as much as $100 million into the struggling company as late as the summer of 2000, but to no avail. Wards was one of the oldest department store changes in the United States, getting its start as a mail-order business in the 1870s, and opening its first store in 1926 in Indiana. Its longevity could not save it, however, in an age of Wal Mart, Best Buy and Target, which slowly but surely robbed Wards of any distinctiveness it had as a retailer, according to retail analysts familiar with the matter.

For related news, click on:Major Retailer Shuts Stores, but Retail Should Remain Strong in Country in 2001

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