POMPANO BEACH, Fla. - Rental 1, No. 44 on the RER 100, filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code last month.

Rental 1 had been burdened by heavy debt for several years, forcing it to close or sell more than 20 locations in the past year, including operations it acquired in Texas only two years earlier. The company, based here, currently has 25 branches in Florida, Georgia and the Caribbean.

"We have been working diligently over the past several months to deleverage our balance sheet and provide liquidity to properly run the business in a highly competitive environment," said president and CEO David Russell. "Unfortunately, we have not been able to accomplish these objectives on a timely basis without seeking court protection."

Rental 1, which does business as General Rental at many of its locations, went througha restructuring in 1998 and brought on Russell after its acquisition strategy ran up against the rapid emergence of public consolidators.

"The reorganization will enable the company to strengthen its operations so that, with a stronger balance sheet, the company can re-emerge as one of the leaders in the market it serves," Russell said.

Rental 1 had total revenue of $28 million in 1998.