Eddie Bauer files for Chapter 11

bankruptcy plan: Bellevue-based company finds bidder who intends to keep open most stores Struggling mall retailer Eddie Bauer Holdings Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Wednesday but said a bidder already has agreed to keep the majority of its 371 stores open, honor gift cards and hold onto most employees.

The retailer has stores in Tacoma, Olympia and Auburn, according to the company’s Web site.

Eddie Bauer, known for outdoorsy clothing, said CCMP Capital Advisors LLC has bid $202 million in cash for its assets. Other buyers may also make bids while the company is under court protection.

Bankruptcy rumors had been swirling as Bellevue-based Eddie Bauer struggled with slumping sales amid the recession. It reported a loss for the first quarter of $44.5 million as sales fell 16 percent to $179.8 million.

It had $476.1 million in assets and $426.7 million in debt at the time of the filing Wednesday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the District of Delaware.

Since becoming CEO in 2007, Neil Fiske tried to turn the company around, cutting jobs and lowering expenses. But the company continued to falter as the economy soured.

“Now you have too many stores chasing shoppers who are more cash- and credit-constrained than any time post-World War II,” said retail consultant Burt Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resource Group.

Eddie Bauer said in a statement that CCMP has agreed to operate the company as a going concern with little or no long-term debt. CCMP did not immediately return a call for comment. The company expects to complete the sale process within 60 days.