Far & Wide filing for bankruptcy

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MIAMI -- Far & Wide announced that it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Sept. 24.

Chairman and CEO Phil Bakes cited a "liquidity and cash crunch" because of the "calamity that has visited leisure travel with Sept. 11, Iraq, SARS and some lesser curve balls from the economy and the weakened dollar."

Bakes informed employees of the news in a conference call early Wednesday.

Most employees will be laid off and will not be paid for the preceding 10-day pay period, the company said.

Far & Wide intends to use remaining resources to take care of customers either traveling or scheduled to depart; to maintain a limited operating infrastructure for the business units that have good prospects or firm commitments from former owners to buy the companies back; and to support efforts to find buyers for as many assets or business units as possible.

However, once the bankruptcy is filed, Bakes said, the use of that cash will be subject to court approval.

The ex-owners of 10 Far & Wide companies confirmed they are trying to take back and operate those enterprises. They include Swain Australia Tours, African Travel, Pacific Bestours, Adventure Center, Lion World Tours, Intercontinental Travel Co., IST Cultural Tours, Journeys Unlimited, Regina Tours and High Country Passage.

Far & Wide was founded in March 1999 with its acquisition of Central Holidays and Swain Australia Tours. In June 2000, Far & Wide acquired IST Cultural Tours, and the next month Far & Wide purchased of Tourlite and Zeus Tours. The company went on to build its portfolio of 17 tour companies.

To contact reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].

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