Books-a-Million has agreed to buy the inventory of 19 Crown Books stores in metropolitan Washington, D.C., and Chicago, and has bid $900,000 for the property leases. The remaining 44 Crown stores will hold liquidation sales for eight to 12 weeks under the direction of Hilco Merchants Resources of Chicago, and then close.

Charlie Cumello, CEO of Crown Books, told PW, "The management team here is very pleased that we can work out a deal between ourselves, BAM and the creditors committee. And our goal remains to maximize our return on the rest of the stores."

All agreements were presented to the bankruptcy court in Delaware on Monday, March 5. A final hearing before the bankruptcy court set for March 16 will determine if BAM's lease bid will come out on top, in which case BAM will assume ownership of the stores. Keen Realty of Great Neck, N.Y., will try to sell leases on all other Crown properties.

Cumello said, "Crown would like to thank the whole industry for supporting us and giving us a chance. When we came out of bankruptcy in November 1999, we got a chance to survive because the industry stood behind us. They wanted us to survive, and everyone did what they could to help."