Fresno's Gottschalks will close; liquidator wins bid

Liquidators won the battle for Gottschalks Inc. and will shut down the company, CEO James Famalette said late Monday.

“It’s very difficult to talk right now,” said Famalette, his voice shaking, a little more than an hour after the auction ended in Delaware.

He said Gottschalks would begin notifying employees today about what will happen. Going-out-of-business sales could begin as early as this week.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin said Tuesday she was disappointed to hear that the Fresno-based department store chain would be liquidated.

"Our focus now is helping the folks who find themselves without a job," she said. "We'll be meeting with private sector employers and seeing if there is a way for the city to help them find work for these people."

Gottschalks, founded in Fresno in 1904, operates 58 department stores and three specialty stores. It has about 5,200 employees in California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Idaho and Nevada.

The liquidators were one of three bidders, including another liquidator and a Chinese company, Shandong Commercial Group, that intended to keep some of the stores open.

“We tried as hard as we could to make this work with the Shandong people, but there were too many things financially, with the size of the deal, and regulatory issues, that they just couldn’t get done in time,” Famalette said from Delaware.

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