By Elayna Z. Matthews, Creditors’ Rights & Bankruptcy and Litigation Attorney
Western Communications, Inc., the parent company for several Oregon and California regional newspapers, including The Bend Bulletin, The Baker City Herald, The Observer, The Redmond Spokesman, The Daily Triplicate, and The Curry Coastal Pilot (collectively the “Bend Bulletin”), recently filed a proposed liquidation plan in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy case. The proposed plan, which was filed on May 22, 2019 (accessible here) categorizes all of the Bend Bulletin’s secured and unsecured claims and proposes to pay all claims by liquidating and selling all of its assets. The Bend Bulletin filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Oregon, Portland Division on January 22, 2019. The Bend Bulletin newspapers serve communities in Central Oregon, Baker County, Union County, Wallowa County, Curry County, and Redmond, Oregon, as well as Del Norte County, California. The impact of the unfortunate filing in these communities is significant, as the Bend Bulletin is often the only regional publication in the communities it serves.
For creditors impacted by the bankruptcy filing, understanding the bankruptcy case can be confusing. Protecting your rights in a large bankruptcy case is critical if any opportunity to recover amounts owed to you might occur. Unlike in a Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy case, Chapter 11 cases are thought of as reorganization cases, where the bankruptcy company may continue operating as a going business concern. In 2012, the Bend Bulletin filed a separate, prior Chapter 11 case, and had a reorganization plan confirmed. If you were a creditor in this prior case, you may have received repayment over time of the amounts owed to you. Each bankruptcy case is distinct and the outcomes in the current case may be drastically different.
Chapter 11 debtors can instead propose a liquidation plan over reorganization. Unlike the 2012 case, the Bend Bulletin is now proposing a liquidation plan. The Bend Bulletin’s liquidation plan would give it the ability to control the sale and liquidation process, while also using protections in the Bankruptcy Code to keep creditors from enforcing their claims. The Bend Bulletin’s skeletal Chapter 11 liquidation plan gives it more time and more flexibility to sell its assets before paying creditors. Under the current liquidation plan, the Bend Bulletin proposes to pay creditors in order of the priority of their claims. Creditors of the Bend Bulletin are owed (according to claims filed in the case) approximately $29,517,865.00. Those creditors now have an opportunity to protect their rights using various tools available to them under Oregon law and the Bankruptcy Code.
Many of the tools available to creditors are time sensitive or can be impacted by proceedings occurring early in the bankruptcy case. As the Bend Bulletin’s Chapter 11 case proceeds, creditors should stay informed about what is happening in the case and promptly explore whether any actions can be taken to improve the prospects of repayment. The Creditors’ Rights & Bankruptcy Group at Saalfeld Griggs has worked on numerous prior bankruptcy cases and has the experience to help creditors understand their rights and steps they can take to improve a chance for repayment.
Elayna Matthews is an associate in the Litigation and Creditors’ Rights & Bankruptcy practice groups and the Financial Services Industry Group. The information in this article is not intended to provide legal advice. For professional consultation, please contact Elayna Matthews at Saalfeld Griggs PC. 503.399.1070. [email protected] © 2019 Saalfeld Griggs PC