Stars' burger bar sinking into debt

PLANET HOLLYWOOD, the celebrity theme restaurant that promises sightings of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis alongside its burgers and fries, is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy after failing to sustain a lightning-speed global expansion.

Despite its star shareholders - who include Sylvester Stallone, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg as well as Willis and Schwarzenegger - the non- stop media coverage of its fancy openings and showbiz parties and its very public quotation on the New York Stock Exchange, the chain is sinking ever deeper into debt and has started missing interest repayments. Last week, Planet Hollywood International reported a loss of $228m (pounds 146m) for the fourth quarter of 1998, bringing its total losses for last year to $243m. The five celebrities shared a block of $12.7m shares and face a huge loss on their portfolios.

It appears to have expanded too fast, suffered from increasingly crowded competition and failed to lure the curious, first-time diners back. Since its opening five years ago, Planet Hollywood has opened in cities all over the world. But it is putting its Times Square restaurant in New York up for sale, as well as its headquarters in Orlando, Florida. The company is revising its menu and changing booking procedures to try to return to profitability.

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