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The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., based in Montvale, NJ, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Dec. 12.

The filing was widely expected and occurred after the company struggled for years to manage its enormous debt and increased competition from discount chains. In the filing, the company lists assets of about $2.5 billion and debt of more than $3.2 billion. The company reported revenue of $9.5 billion in 2008, but that dropped to $8.8 billion in 2009 amid declining sales.

"We have taken this difficult but necessary step to enable A&P to fully implement our comprehensive financial and operational restructuring," Chief Executive Officer Sam Martin said in a statement yesterday. “We could not complete our turnaround without availing ourselves of Chapter 11.”

According to the filing, A&P secured $800 million in debtor-in-possession financing from JPMorgan Chase & Co., giving it immediate access to a $187 million loan and $200 million in letters of credit, which will allow the company to continue to operate its 395 stores under the A&P, Waldbaum's, The Food Emporium, Super Fresh, Pathmark and Food Basics banners around the Northeast.

The 151-year-old chain, which is the oldest in the nation, was also at one time the largest, with 15,357 locations nationwide at its peak.