Shopko bankruptcy: Snow removal concerns, change of venue request, pharmacy auction
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GREEN BAY – A little more than a week ago, Shopko and its affiliates sought bankruptcy protection from creditors in a federal court in Nebraska.
Since then, 189 documents have been filed in the case by the company, its creditors and other parties, including a contractor that is trying to get out of its snow-plowing contract and a major supplier that wants the bankruptcy case moved to Wisconsin.
Shopko’s parent company, Specialty Retail Shops Holding Corp., wants to restructure with a plan that calls for it to sell its pharmacy business, close more than 100 unprofitable stores by April, spin off its optical business into standalone stores, secure new financing from lenders and emerge still able to operate as a smaller company.
The Ashwaubenon-based retailer has until March 15 to find a way to come to terms with creditors and lenders, which means there’s little time to resolve procedural issues and claims raised since the bankruptcy began Jan. 16.
Here’s a look at five things to know and watch as the case progresses:
The case could move to Wisconsin
A Brown County Circuit Court judge rejected McKesson Corp.’s request to block Shopko from selling or moving its inventory of pharmaceutical drugs provided by McKesson, but the company still wants the bankruptcy proceedings moved to eastern Wisconsin courtrooms.
In a motion filed Jan. 18, McKesson asked U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Thomas Saladino to transfer the case from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Nebraska to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.
McKesson claims it is owed $69.7 million. It argues the interests of creditors, employees and interested parties is best served by administering the case from the court where it is headquartered. It claims Shopko was “forum shopping” by filing the case in Nebraska, more than 600 miles from the company’s “nerve center in Green Bay.”
The motion notes only one Shopko subsidiary, Pamida Transportation, was formed in Nebraska and that it now has no employees, no phone number, no address and is administered from the company’s Ashwaubenon headquarters.
“By requiring (creditors) to participate in a distant court, the debtors seek to minimize their impact on the debtors’ restructuring efforts,” the motion reads. “Venue in Nebraska helps ensure that creditors will be disenfranchised from complete and effective participation in these bankruptcy cases.”
The companies will argue the motion during a hearing at 1 p.m. Monday in bankruptcy court in Omaha, Nebraska.
This weekend: Pharmacy auction
Shopko has already sold much of its pharmacy business to Kroger, Hy-Vee and CVS, netting about $95 million via the sales, court records show.
But there are still stores with pharmacies and the company will auction off those remaining operations on Saturday. The result of the auction will be presented to Saladino on Monday, and he will decide whether to accept the high bid.
Shopko’s reorganization timeline calls for the auction results to be certified by Jan. 29.
About those creditors .
By late Friday, 74 claims had been filed with the court seeking more than $7.4 million. These claims are in addition to the $122.8 million total owed to the company’s 30 largest unsecured creditors.
Of the new claims filed, only $14,888 are secured claims. Another $99,794 in claims will be given priority, which is granted based on whether the goods or services were provided in the three weeks before the company filed for bankruptcy.
Companies and individuals have until Feb. 15 to file claims with the bankruptcy court for unpaid bills.
Snow removal company wants out
This would be a tough point in the year to lose snow removal services, but close to a third of Shopko stores run the risk of it.
Since September 2010, Brooklyn-based Ferrandino & Son Inc. has plowed and salted the parking lots of 110 Shopko locations, including more than 30 in Wisconsin. On Jan. 11, Ferrandino notified Shopko it was terminating its contract because it had not been paid more than $616,000 due for snow removal services within the 30-day period laid out in the contract.
After Shopko filed for bankruptcy, Ferrandino tried to confirm receipt of the letter and termination of the contract, but Shopko officials told Ferrandino it hadn’t been terminated.
In its court filing, Ferrandino said the contract would require them to remove snow from the 110 locations at a cost of $750,000 to $1 million. In a hearing scheduled for Tuesday, Saladino will be asked to rule on whether the contract remains in force.
Morningstar: $40M in loans at risk
Shopko does not own many of its own locations. It sold the bulk of its real estate to a real estate investment trust for $815 million in 2006.
Investment research firm Morningstar published an alert on Jan. 22 that said Shopko’s plan to close 105 stores across its footprint increased the risk of default on six loans to shopping centers where Shopkos will close. The loans are called commercial mortgage-backed securities, or CMBS.
Our latest #CMBS Alert: Shopko to Close Over 100 Stores; Raises Risk on $40 Million in CMBS pic.twitter.com/pLrj6B7yqM
— Morningstar Credit Ratings (@MstarCrdRatings) January 24, 2019
Three of the loans are to malls in Wisconsin, in Madison, Neenah and Plover. The others are in Idaho, Oregon and Utah.
At the time of the alert, Morningstar noted one loan was in foreclosure, a $7.1 million loan that financed Plover Plaza. The other five are current, but still of concern.
“These loans, none of which has a balance of more than $10 million, may be at an elevated risk of default because they have exposure to Shopko stores slated for closure,” the alert reads.
Morningstar said there are 15 CMBS loans with a total value of $146.6 million that have exposure to Shopko locations.
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