Last updated: January 21, 2013 7:53 pm

Atari files for bankruptcy protection

Visitors watch and play Atari's latest games©Getty

Atari has filed for bankruptcy protection in the US and France, setting the stage for a sale of some of the most famous names from the early days of video games in the 1970s.

The company behind Pong said that its US business expected to sell or restructure all its assets in the next 120 days.


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The assets include the games Asteroids, Missile Command and Tempest, as well as the Atari brand logo, a stylised letter A meant to evoke Mount Fuji.

Atari, which has changed ownership several times since it was founded in 1972, provided a generation with its first taste of video games. Steve Jobs, the late chief executive of Apple, was an early employee.

Atari SA, a French group formerly called Infogrames Entertainment, acquired Atari in 2001 but has struggled to generate enough profit since then to sustain its debt burden.

The company said on Monday that its main shareholder and sole lender, BlueBay, was no longer able to provide support. A spokesperson for BlueBay declined to comment. BlueBay owns just under two-thirds of Atari on a fully diluted basis.

Atari’s US operation, which has filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy process, said that it would conduct normal business operations during this period. It has approval to obtain $5m of debtor-in-possession financing from Tenor Capital Management, a firm specialising in distressed lending.

Atari SA has filed for bankruptcy procedures before the French courts, under Book 6 of the French Commercial Code. Its shares, which have collapsed from a high of €1,504 in 2000 to below €1, were suspended from trading on Monday.

Atari, which owns and manages a portfolio of more than 200 games, is best known for creating Pong, a two-dimensional game of ping-pong that was one of the first video games to see mainstream success.

Since its heyday, the company has shifted its business from arcades and consoles to digital games and licensing. It recently launched titles for the Apple and Android mobile platforms, including Outlaw, Breakout and Asteroids Gunner.

This article has been amended to change the date of Infogrames’ acquisition of Atari from 1999 to 2001.

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