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Industry Retail
Fate Liquidation
Founded 1982
Defunct 2002
Headquarters Youngstown, Ohio, United States
Key people
Michael I. Monus, David Shapira
Products Pharmacy, Liquor, Cosmetics, Health and Beauty Aids, General Merchandise, Snacks, 1 Hour Photo
Number of employees

Phar-Mor was a United States chain of discount drug stores, based in Youngstown, Ohio, and founded by Michael "Mickey" Monus and David Shapira in 1982. Some of its stores used the names Pharmhouse and Rx Place (purchased in the mid-1990s from the F.W. Woolworth Company). Low prices were advertised to bring in a large volume of sales with the slogans "Phar-Mor power buying gives you Phar-Mor buying power" and "Phar-Mor For Less." Another common slogan in their TV commercials was "Power buying saves: Save at Phar-Mor."

In 1996, the Green Bay, Wisconsin-based regional discount store chain ShopKo announced a plan to merge with Phar-Mor, but withdrew from the plan a year later, citing irreconcilable differences.[1][2][3][4]

Business model

Phar-Mor's business model was based on selling a large quantity of merchandise with a very small profit margin. Many products were shipped via direct store delivery, but some were shipped through Tamco warehouses, which Phar-Mor later purchased.

Sam Walton once called Monus the only retailer that he feared, since he couldn't understand how Phar-Mor grew so rapidly in a short time.[5]


In 1992, when the company had grown to over 300 stores and 25,000 employees,[6] Monus and his CFO Patrick Finn were accused of embezzlement: they had allegedly hidden losses and moved about $10 million from Phar-Mor to the World Basketball League that Monus had founded. Based on deceptive data and inventory, Phar-Mor borrowed millions, ostensibly to finance its unusually rapid growth. In actuality, this infusion of cash was necessary to pay off suppliers. As a result, Phar-Mor had to file for bankruptcy protection, closed 55 stores and laid off 5,000 employees. Finn testified against Monus and received 33 months in prison. Monus' first trial ended in a hung jury in 1994; he was convicted at the second trial on 107 federal counts, mostly related to fraud, and sentenced to 17 years and 7 months in federal prison. Prosecutors estimated that the total loss to all investors exceeded $1 billion. The sentence was appealed and later reduced to 9 years.

Several investors in Phar-Mor filed a civil suit against the company's auditors, Coopers & Lybrand. A jury decided in 1996 that the accountants committed common law and federal securities law fraud by falsely representing they had performed GAAS audits when in fact they had failed to do so.

Phar-Mor emerged from bankruptcy protection in January 1995 with 143 stores remaining,[7] only to be hit hard once again by competition from other large retailers, such as Wal-Mart and Target, which began opening new stores with pharmacies.[8] Phar-Mor, unable to compete, was forced into bankruptcy for the second time in September 2001 after it had emerged from its three-year-long bankruptcy.[9] The company was delisted from the NASDAQ Stock Market on October 10, 2001.[10]

Phar-Mor became weaker during its last years of business. The company tried to return to its Power Buying concept before it had filed for bankruptcy, but to no avail. Without Power Buying, Phar-Mor found itself directly competing with CVS and Walgreens, and lost out because of other chains' convenient locations.[11]

In July 2002, a judge in Youngstown approved the sale of Phar-Mor Inc.'s $141 million in assets and inventory. Going-out-of-business sales began at the pharmacy chain's remaining 73 stores. Liquidation of Phar-Mor's inventory was handled by The Ozer Group of Needham, Massachusetts and Hilco Merchant Resources of Northbrook, Illinois.[12] Its Youngstown-area assets were purchased by Giant Eagle in bankruptcy court.

The case was featured in an episode of the PBS show Frontline, entitled "How to Steal $500 Million".[13]


  1. ^ "Phar-Mor to merge with ShopKo". Chain Drug Review. 1996. 
  2. ^ Wilensky, Dawn (1996). "ShopKo, Phar-Mor hope merger means healthier days". Discount Store News. 
  3. ^;col1. 
  4. ^ Wilensky, Dawn (1997). "The deal is off; ShopKo looks for another partner". Discount Store News. 
  5. ^ Farrey, Tom. Souls of the departed haunt Youngstown. ESPN, 2004-11-12.
  6. ^ Phar-Mor can pay employees
  7. ^ "Phar-Mor Reaches Accord". The New York Times. January 19, 1995. Retrieved December 10, 2010. 
  8. ^ Don Shilling (September 25, 2001). "PHAR-MOR Is cutting stores the right strategy?". Youngstown News. Retrieved December 10, 2010. 
  9. ^ "COMPANY NEWS; PHAR-MOR, DRUGSTORE CHAIN, FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY". The New York Times. September 25, 2001. Retrieved December 10, 2010. 
  10. ^ "Phar-Mor starts putting its house in order". Chain Drug Review. October 22, 2001. Retrieved December 11, 2010. 
  11. ^ Don Shilling (July 18, 2002). "". 
  12. ^ "Phar-Mor liquidation sales start". July 21, 2002. Retrieved August 15, 2015. 
  13. ^ Jim Gilmore, Paul Judge, and Paul Solman (November 8, 1994). "FRONTLINE: previous reports: transcripts: how to steal $500 million". PBS. Retrieved July 16, 2012. 
  • Marianne M. Jennings: "Phar-mor and Michael Monus"
  • Marylynne Pitz: "Jury finds Phar-Mor's auditors negligent", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 15 February 1996
  • "Appeals court rejects convicted executive's request for new trial", The Associated Press, 26 January 2004
  • United States v. Monus, decision of appeals court 1997
  • Marcus Gleisser: "Not-guilty vote worth $50,000", Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 4 March 1998
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