Winn-Dixie to Close 326 Stores, Cut 22,000 Jobs

Bankrupt supermarket chain Winn-Dixie (search) announced Tuesday that it will close 326 of its 913 stores in the coming months and will trim 22,000 of 78,000 positions as part of its proposed Chapter 11 (search) reorganization plan.

The company said it will stop operating in Tennessee, Virginia and the Carolinas, and trim operations in its five remaining states, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. The cuts correspond to 35 percent of the company's stores and 28 percent of its workforce.

Winn-Dixie operates in nine Southeast states and the Bahamas.

The company would have about $7.5 billion in annual revenue after disposing of the stores, down 25 percent from its current $10 billion, the company said.

In a statement, Winn-Dixie also said it will try to sell six dairy plants, its pizza plant in Montgomery, Ala., and its Chek Beverage/Deep South Products plant in Fitzgerald, Ga., which produces Chek soda, shelf-stable juices and condiments.

The company said it will try to find buyers for the closing stores and ask the new owners to retain as many employees as possible. If buyers are not found, Winn-Dixie said it would continue to operate the Chek Beverage plant and its Hammond, La., and Plant City, Fla., dairies.

Peter Lynch, president and CEO of Winn-Dixie, has said for months that the reorganized company must become smaller.

"We regret the impact these tough decisions will have on many of our associates, customers and local communities. We do not take these decisions lightly and would not be proceeding if these steps were not essential to restore Winn-Dixie's financial health," Lynch said in a statement.

An attorney repesenting Winn-Dixie, Stephen Busey, said at a bankruptcy hearing last week that Winn-Dixie planned to cut 400 jobs from the 1,400 at its corporate headquarters.

Winn-Dixie, which filed for bankruptcy on Feb. 21, is No. 182 on the 2005 Fortune 500 list of the country's largest corporations. Winn-Dixie was ranked No. 8 among 19 food and drug store companies, while Lakeland-based Publix (search) was ranked No. 6 among supermarkets and No. 117 overall.

The Jacksonville-based supermarket chain listed assets of $2.2 billion and liabilities of $1.9 billion in a February bankruptcy filing.