CHICAGO, JAN. 24 -- G. Heileman Brewing Co. Inc. said today it filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code, three years after it was taken over by the now-fallen empire of Australia's Alan Bond.

Heileman, founded in 1858 and based in La Crosse, Wis., makes Old Style, Colt 45, Lone Star and Carling Black Label beer. It is the nation's fifth-largest brewer and has brewing plants in Baltimore, La Crosse, Baltimore, San Antonio, Seattle and Portland, Ore.

Like other major companies that fell sway to debt-heavy deals in the 1980s, Heileman was choked by debt taken on in its $1.26 billion takeover by Australia's Bond Corp. Holdings Ltd. in September 1987.

The company, seeking to emerge quickly from bankruptcy, said it has worked out a plan to pay off its creditors and reduce Bond's 100 percent ownership to a minority stake.

It filed for Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. Any plan to pay off its creditors is subject to court approval.

Bond Corp., once a highflying Australian conglomerate, was worth about $8.3 billion at its peak but is now battling with creditors to stave off liquidation.

The company was built up by flamboyant entrepreneur Alan Bond, who won the America's Cup yacht race for Australia in 1983 and became something of a national hero.

He was forced to step down from the helm of Bond Corp. in September as the company's finances worsened.

Heileman Chairman Thomas Rattigan said he expects the company to emerge from bankruptcy as early as this summer with "a serviceable level of debt that can be supported by the cash flow of the business."

Heileman said it entered Chapter 11 with a reorganization agreement in place with its secured creditors and a committee representing bondholders. The brewer said its agreement follows a year of negotiations with Heileman's secured creditors, including U.S. and Canadian banks and holders of a 1980 public debt offering.

The company said its secured debt totals $580 million.

Pittsburgh Brewing Co., a Bond affiliate, is not included in the petitions since it is not owned by Heileman.