Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. said Tuesday it is emerging from bankruptcy protection, ending a process that began on September 15, 2008 and which sent shockwaves through the global financial system. 

The $639 billion US bankruptcy of the 158-year-old firm was the largest U.S. business failure in history, and left its 25,000 staff without jobs. The process generated $1.6 billion US in lawyers' and consultants' fees.

Its collapse represented for many people the beginning of what became known in the U.S. as The Great Recession.

But emerging from bankruptcy protection doesn't mean Lehman will continue to operate its old business. Instead, it will be a holding company from which to sell its remaining assets. It said it will start paying back bondholders on April 17 the about $65 billion of asset value left.

Creditors had made more than $300 billion in claims.

The bankruptcy judge, James Peck, in December approved Lehman's plan for paying off creditors.

Emerging from bankruptcy will also allow Lehman to wind down operations and meet its end.