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RadioShack's successor reportedly preparing for bankruptcy

March 2, 2017

General Wireless Operations, the joint venture between Sprint Corp. and former RadioShack owners, is preparing to file for bankruptcy, according to people familiar with the matter.

A filing could happen within the coming days and will probably result in liquidation, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the process isn’t public. The beleaguered company, which does business as RadioShack, operates outlets within Sprint’s retail locations, as well as franchising the name to other stores.

The bankruptcy would deal another blow to the RadioShack brand, an almost-century-old source of electronics that struggled to compete with online merchants and big-box retailers. The General Wireless venture was designed to help the RadioShack name live on following the demise of the original chain. But pressures on the business, including sluggish foot traffic at shopping centers and a shift to e-commerce, have persisted.

RadioShack Corp. filed for bankruptcy in 2015. The company closed about half of its 4,000 stores and sold 1,700 to creditor Standard General LP, which teamed up with Sprint to form General Wireless. The deal created 1,400 mini-stores housed in Sprint locations, plus several hundred franchised units.

RadioShack operated about 45 stores in Indiana before its bankruptcy, including about 25 in central Indiana. A store locator listed on its web site now lists four outlets in Indianapolis and four others in surrounding communities.  

Sprint didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Standard General, an investment firm that previously backed American Apparel, didn’t have an immediate comment.

‘Ambitious plans’

When the venture was rolled out in 2015, CEO Ron Garriques said he had “ambitious plans for the new RadioShack.” The business renovated locations and updated inventory. The Sprint partnership also was meant to give the stores an edge.

At the time, the business lined up a financing package that included a $50 million asset-backed credit line, led by RBC Capital Markets, as well as a $25 million term loan from Great American Capital Partners.

But the company has been working against a broader pullback in brick-and-mortar retail. Best Buy Co., the largest electronics chain, delivered a disappointing outlook this week, a sign that even the biggest retailers are struggling to adapt.

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