Woolworths Group was granted an administration order in the British High Court today.
The order, granted by Mr Justice Patten, will prevent creditors taking further action over debts.
The order excluded Woolworths Media, which includes profitable DVD publishing arm 2Entertain, a joint venture with BBC Worldwide.
Martin Pascoe QC, representing the failed high street chain, told the judge that the main trading subsidiaries had gone into administration in November, leading to the closures of the stores earlier this month and the great majority of the employees being made redundant.
He said an administration order was being sought as a means of “realisation of the company’s only remaining asset”.
No order was sought for Woolworths Media, which owns 40% of 2Entertain with the remainder belonging to BBC Worldwide.
Mr Pascoe said Woolworths Group was unable to pay “a very large” secured debt.
The closure of the firm’s 807 British outlets has left some 27,000 people unemployed.
A BBC spokesman said: “2Entertain remains a profitable and well-funded business. Therefore the focus for 2Entertain is on business as usual.
“BBC Worldwide, which owns 60% of 2Entertain, will now begin talks with the administrator of Woolworths Group plc regarding 2Entertain’s future.”