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LOS ANGELES-Meruelo Maddux Properties said late Thursday that it and numerous of its subsidiaries have filed, or will be filing, voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy petitions. The Los Angeles-based company, which recently reported that it was in default on 26 loans totaling $266 million, seeks to restructure its debt and to reorganize.

Excluded from the filing is the company’s 35-story, 214-unit 717 W. Ninth St. apartment tower, a project currently under construction in Downtown L.A. In its fourth-quarter conference call and earnings report on March 12, the company said that it had stopped making interest and principal payments on and likely was in default on 26 loans totaling $266 million, but it was continuing to pay the loan on the 717 W. Ninth St. project.

The bankruptcy filing was one of the strategic options that the company mentioned as possibilities in its recent conference call. Richard Meruelo, chairman and CEO of Meruelo Maddux, in a statement Thursday described the Chapter 11 filing as “necessary given the challenging economic climate.”

Meruelo’s statement said that the company’s goal now is “to implement a comprehensive reorganization and continue to seek additional outside financing which we believe will allow us to move forward.” Its quarterly financial report said that it is actively marketing many of its projects to raise cash, but pointed out that “Selling properties in this environment is difficult.”

Meruelo Maddux, which has cut staff and has suspended all substantial development efforts, except for the 717 W. Ninth St. project, reported a net loss of $85.8 million and 98 cents per share for the three months ended Dec. 31. For the full year, it reported a net loss of $96 million and $1.11 per share. The company expects to continue to manage its real estate portfolio and does not currently anticipate any disruption to its tenants, it said in disclosing the Chapter 11 filing.

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