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    NRC Brokers Clark's Fire Sale

    From "new Americans " to Big Oil, thousands vie for bankrupt Illinois chain's assets.

    CHICAGO -- Nearly 4,000 bidders are vying for the 631 Clark Retail sites placed on the auction block.

    Staffers at the National Real Estate Clearinghouse (NRC) in Illinois, the organization assigned to tackle the massive dissolution of one of the Midwest's largest convenience/fueling operations, were busy Thursday reviewing the plethora of offers received earlier this week.

    "We're evaluating the bids right now with Clark, " NRC President Evan Gladstone told CSNews Online today. "We'll have more information as to who got what in the next couple of weeks. For Clark, they are looking for the highest recovery. "

    Gladstone declined to identify the larger bidders, but did confirm that some of the major oil companies tendered offers on small pockets of stores. "The bids are from all over the country and some of the majors made bids on a handful of sites. "

    Gladstone declined to comment on whether any bids were submitted for hundreds of locations, but observers tracking Clark's demise doubted such proposals would surface considering a sizeable slice of the bankrupt locations consisted of smaller store formats, limited lot sizes and older fueling equipment.

    Clark filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last fall after declining revenues and substantial debt accrued through numerous acquisitions crushed the company's coffers. Clark, recognized as an aggressive gasoline retailer, was devastated by the fall in fuel margins, along with declining tobacco profits.

    The jewel of Clark's possessions, the 200-plus White Hen Pantry chain, which is not part of the bankruptcy sale, has attracted the interest of several significant parties, including some venture capital groups, sources say.

    Crain's Chicago Business reported this week that Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., a Canadian convenience store operator which has ventured into Midwestern United States, and Dearborn Wholesale Grocers, White Hen's supplier, are among the high-profile parties interested in the Chicago chain.

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