MarchFirst Announces 1,700 Layoffs

CHICAGO — Troubled high-tech consultancy MarchFirst Inc. said Monday it is laying off 1,700 people, about 30 percent of its staff, as it scrambles to sell assets and pay off heavy debts.

The announcement ended nearly a week of silence since widespread reports that layoffs were imminent caused its already-ailing stock to fall steeply and ultimately be suspended last Thursday on the Nasdaq Stock Market at 16 cents a share.

MarchFirst said it is trying to sell off more of its business units to raise cash.

The company confirmed it is selling some core assets to Divine Inc., the software services company that announced the deal at as much as $125 million late Friday.

The Chicago-based company, which took its current name after a December 1999 merger of Whittman-Hart and San Francisco-based USWeb/CKS Inc., said it “actively pursuing sales of other business units.”

“To increase the value of these individual units, the company is immediately implementing a reduction in force affecting approximately 1,700 employees or 30 percent of the company’s staff,” the announcement said.

MarchFirst spokeswoman said the layoffs occurred last Thursday and Friday. She did not have a breakdown but said they took place across the company’s nationwide system.

The company said the offices sold to Divine, for a unit that will now be known as Divine Whittman-Hart, are its SAP practice located in Denver and separate offices located in Chicago; Dallas, Houston and Austin, Texas; Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio; Detroit and Grand Rapids, Mich.; Indianapolis; Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Irvine, Calif.; Milwaukee; Minneapolis; Pittsburgh; St. Louis; Hong Kong and Toronto.

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