This undoubtedly marks the lowest point for the world’s largest bowling center operator; started in 1900 making equipment for the tobacco industry, AMF made its mark in 1946 with the automatic pin spotter. The device, which picked up and reset pins using suction cups, was previously executed by hand. Since that point, AMF has purchased over 500 centers to date, many of which were sold overseas. This device was later modified in 1951 and over 30,000 machines were installed by 1957.
This also marks the second time in 11 years that the company has filed for bankruptcy. In 2001, after amassing a glut of purchased bowling centers and failed equipment sales strategy in the 90’s, the company filed for reorganization and exited with a confirmed Chapter 11 plan. This gave the AMF’s unsecured creditors 7.5 percent of the new stock.
AMF began searching for a buyer last year after facing what was considered to be “unimaginable” debt levels. When the attempt proved to be unsuccessful, the company then began to seek out creditors to discuss restructuring.
Despite receiving over 20 million bowlers a year, the AMF attributes the bowling industry’s shift to open play from leagues among the greatest contributors to the recent financial troubles. Another contributing factor is the domination of “mom-and-pop” operators, which makes up for more than 5,000 centers across the Unites States.
The company also cited a failure to upgrade facilities and incorporate a competing brand of technology and enviroment – such as Lucky Strike, a lounge-style, upscale center – which appeal to today’s bowlers, played a role in the downturn of revenue, therefore thwarting plans of improvement.
On the bright side, representatives said that they expect for AMF to emerge from bankruptcy protection in the next five months,
“We will recapitalize our balance sheet and reduce our burdensome debt load and related costs,” said Steve Satterwhite, AMF’s chief financial officer and chief operating officer.
AMF will also have the support of the Bowling Proprietors Association of America (BPAA). Steve Johnson, Executive Director of the BPAA, recognized the advances in the bowling industry in recent years. He also stated that the association will “offer AMF our full support as the company undergoes Chapter 11.”
The company has stated that it has $50 million of financing to keep operating now, and that customers should see no difference.