Woolworth into administration
I have learned that Woolworth, one of the UK's best known and oldest store groups, will tonight file to go into administration under UK insolvency procedures.
The board will meet at 6pm to take the formal decision.
Deloitte will be appointed as administrators to the store chain and also to Entertainment UK, which supplies books and DVDs to supermarket groups.
However Woolworth's joint venture with the BBC will not go into administration. It is owned by Woolworth's top company, which will not go into administration.
The collapse of Woolworth is likely to lead to the closure of hundreds of stores across the UK.
And it is also likely to lead to many thousands of redundancies.
Woolworth has 815 stores. The store chain employs 25,000 and Entertainment UK employs 5,000.
The company has struggled under the weight of £385m of debt. Its problems were compounded over the past couple of months when it was forced to pay cash when buying goods from suppliers, because trade credit insurers were no longer prepared to insure supplies to Woolworths.
UPDATE, 05:29 PM: For the millions of us who have grown up on Woolworth pic'n'mix and bought Power Ranger toys from them for our kids, the collapse of the store chain will bring great sadness.
And of course the pain and anxiety is much greater for the 25,000 employed in its stores.
So since the government has recently made such a great fuss about keeping small businesses alive, why didn't ministers try to keep such a substantial retailer afloat?
As it happens I understand that Peter Mandelson, the business secretary, had contact with the company today - to ensure that if it went into administration, it would minimise the anxiety to its employees, it would do what it could to protect its pension fund and it would keep its stores open if possible during the vital Christmas period.
But Woolies has been something of a lame duck retailer for years. It has been losing market share against intense competition.
And government policy is not to prop up lame ducks.
Which is why the board of Woolies, in the end, had no choice but to call in the administrator.