ANC Rental Corp., the parent company of the Alamo and National car rental companies, filed Tuesday for bankruptcy protection, a corporate victim of the retreat in travel since the terrorist attacks.
"The drastic decline in travel after Sept. 11 has taken a tremendous toll on our business, and our current capital and expense structure cannot absorb the shortfall," ANC chairman and CEO Michael Egan said. He promised to "continue serving customers while we stabilize the business."
Customers of the two brands will not notice any difference in service, and all reservations will be honored, the company said.
The Fort Lauderdale company, fourth-largest in the industry after Enterprise, Hertz and Avis, intends to reorganize its business operations and finances under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
International operations and independent national franchise holders are not affected by the bankruptcy filing in Wilmington, Del.
Nasdaq halted trading in ANC before the markets opened Tuesday at a price of 60 cents a share.
The company faced a Thursday deadline for paying lenders $70-million in principal, which had been deferred since September.
Egan warned shortly after the attacks that ANC might not survive without government help, but the airline industry has been the only one to get federal funds.
ANC already has cut its fleet and its work force, hired new senior management and merged the sales forces of the two brands.
The company went looking for a buyer last month as it named a new president, chief financial officer and a restructuring officer and announced plans to close a reservations center in Charlotte, N.C.
ANC also was losing money before the attacks. It was projecting a loss for the year and had a net loss of $23.6-million on falling revenue in the quarter before its traditional summer boom.
ANC's biggest shareholders are ESL Investments, with 16.05 percent, followed by H. Wayne Huizenga, with 7.2 percent and Egan, with 7.6 percent. ESL Investments is a Connecticut hedge fund that recently raised its stake in AutoNation to 24 percent.
Egan ran Alamo before selling to AutoNation Inc., which spun off its rental car lines last year. He returned to his brainchild in January.
The company had $3.5-billion in revenue last year. It has 19,000 employees worldwide.
_ Information from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel was used in this report.