World's Largest Bowling Alley Operator Files for Second Bankruptcy
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World’s Largest Bowling Alley Operator Files for Second Bankruptcy

December 11, 2012

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AMF Bowling Worldwide, the most prominent operator of bowling alleys in the world, is filing for bankruptcy for the second time in 11 years, according to a report from Bloomberg News.

Sources say the company, which owns roughly 300 bowling alleys across the United States, is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to cut its debt and return the struggling company to profitability.

Last month, AMF reportedly told the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond, Virginia, that it holds between $100 million and $500 million in both assets and debt.

According to Steve Satterwhite, the company’s chief financial officer, the company hopes to "recapitalize our balance sheet and reduce our burdensome debt load and related costs."

Through bankruptcy, Satterwhite and other key executives reportedly believe that they will be able to negotiate with AMF’s key creditors to create a restructured debt plan that will give the bowling company an opportunity to regain its financial health.

Sources say the company, which serves 20 million bowlers every year, previously filed for bankruptcy in 2001. During those negotiations, AMF agreed to give its unsecured creditors a small portion of the company’s stock.

The company’s current bankruptcy process may not lead to a similar agreement, but AMF certainly has a recent bankruptcy template to help guide its current case. According to sources, the bowling company has gone through many different manifestations.

The company was founded in 1900 as American Machine & Foundry Co, and it originally made processing equipment for the tobacco industry. But the company’s invention of a machine that gathered and reset bowling pins automatically fostered its unlikely evolution into a bowling kingpin.

The machine, known as the "Pinstopper," gained popularity in 1957. Previously, bowling pins had to be reset by hand, which probably took much of the glamour out of the bowling experience.

In addition to its prize bowling invention, the company has also created novel golfing gear, bicycles, and defrost timers for refrigerators, according to sources.

AMF Bowling was eventually launched from the parent company in 1985 when AMF was purchased in a hostile takeover.

Today, AMF Bowling is owned by CHS Capital, a private-equity firm that bought the bowling company in 2004, shortly after its first bankruptcy.


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