Fresh & Easy files for bankruptcy protection

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets Inc. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as part of its plans to sell its stores to the Yucaipa Cos.

Fresh & Easy declared assets between $100 million and $500 million, but debt of $500 million to $1 billion.

The filing "is simply the next step in the restructuring process to sell the business to The Yucaipa Companies and will have no impact on our customers shopping experience," said Brendan Wonnacott of Fresh & Easy. "It’s business as usual as we continue the transition to new ownership."

The company, which currently operates 200 stores in California, Arizona and Nevada, cited above-market leases — relative to its competitors — as a source of its financial challenges.