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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mrs. Fields Will Seek Bankruptcy Protection

Mrs. Fields Famous Brands LLC, which serves up fresh-baked cookies and TCBY frozen yogurt at more than 1,200 franchises across the country, is planning to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, according to a regulatory filing.

The company was trying to negotiate a restructuring agreement with its senior noteholders, but warned in June that it might have to seek protection from creditors if it couldn't complete the deal out of court.

In the Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Mrs. Fields indicated it would file a prepackaged bankruptcy reorganization plan with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del. Michael R. Ward, Mrs. Fields's interim co-chief executive, confirmed the company's plans Friday.

Under a prepackaged bankruptcy, Mrs. Fields would file for Chapter 11 protection having already developed a plan to repay its creditors and exit from bankruptcy. Mrs. Fields's restructuring plan calls for its noteholders to exchange their $195.7 million in notes for $90 million in cash, $50 million in new senior secured notes and 87.5% of the company's new common stock. The noteholders are expected to recover 86.5% on their claims.

The Mrs. Fields brand was born in 1977, when Debbi Fields opened up her first cookie shop in Palo Alto, Calif. The company turned to franchising in 1990 and has nearly 390 locations in the U.S. and 80 internationally, according to its Web site, plus hundreds of TCBY stores.

The company, however, has struggled with a heavy debt load and has racked up losses in recent months. Mrs. Fields posted a net loss of about $10.7 million for the quarter ended June 28.

By: Rachel Feintzeig
Wall Street Journal; August 16, 2008