Misery Index: Week of March 6, 2017


Gander Mountain hunts for answers

Gander Mountain Co. is all about the great outdoors, but now the fate of the St. Paul, Minn., retailer of hunting, fishing and camping gear will be a courtroom. The company on March 10 filed for Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Minnesota, listing assets and liabilities of between $100 million and $500 million. According to the Gander Mountain’s website, the “action is the result of an in-depth review of the company’s strategic options undertaken in recent months.” Gander Mountain has been hurt by challenging traffic patterns and shifts in consumer demand because of increased direct-to-customer sales by key vendors and the accelerated growth of e-commerce.

Artisanal no longer a big cheese

Moving the cheese from one part of Park Avenue to another didn’t save French bistro Artisanal 2015 LLC from filing for Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Southern District of New York on March 9. The petition comes two years after a class-action lawsuit was filed against a related company, Artisanal Fromagerie & Bistro LLC, by the law firm Fitapellli & Schaffer on behalf of servers, bussers, runners, bartenders and other tipped workers when the restaurant was located at 2 Park Ave.

RadioShack short-circuits again

General Wireless Operations Inc., the Dallas-based company that acquired Radio Shack two years ago out of bankruptcy and was doing business as RadioShack, has now itself filed a Chapter 11 petition in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. According to the March 8 petition, RadioShack is “seeking to close and liquidate the inventory and other assets” of its stores, of which around 187 are effected. RadioShack was losing $200 million annually by 2014, and first filed for Chapter 11 the next year. General Wireless is owned by hedge fund Standard General and Sprint, which began selling cell phones in RadioShack stores. In its petition, General Wireless listed $100 million to $500 million in liabilities.

Aquion Energy looks to recharge

Environmentally friendly doesn’t mean commercially successful, at least not yet for battery maker Aquion Energy Inc., which petitioned for Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware on March 8. Pittsburgh-based Aquion, which makes saltwater batteries used in pristine environments, homes and businesses, was founded in 2008 by Jay Whitacre, a Carnegie-Mellon University professor. According to a declaration with the court by Suzanne Roski, Aquion Energy’s chief restructuring officer, the company had $10 million in revenues in 2016 but suffered cash flow losses of $38.4 million and $31 million in 2015 and 2016, respectively, hurting its ability to raise more capital. Aquion will run a sales process while in bankruptcy, she said.

Gregg Appliances will retool

Amid store closings and layoffs, Indianapolis-based Gregg Appliances and two of its subsidiaries, hhgregg and HHG Distributing, filed for Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana on March 6, despite a “valiant effort over the past 12 months,” one of its executives said in a statement. “We have conducted an extensive review of alternatives and believe pursuing a restructuring through Chapter 11 is the best path forward to ensure hhgregg’s long-term success,” said the unit’s president and CEO, Robert Riesbeck. Founded in 1955, hhgregg has maintained 220 brick-and-mortar stores in 19 states, but on the day of the bankruptcy filing, it announced plans to close 88 stores and lay off 1,500 employees in 15 states by April. Among hhgregg’s current owners are hedge funds FS Capital Partners V LLC and Solas Capital Management LLC.

Eleven 55 Films fades to black

The last two months have been difficult for Dallas-based production company Eleven 55 Films, which suffered a blow when one of the co-founders of its law firm perished in a plane crash and then on March 6 had to file for Chapter 7 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Texas. According to entertainment database IMDBPro, Eleven 55 was founded by Norry Niven, who directed the film From Above, starring Danny Glover and Graham Greene, in 2013. Eleven 55’s law firm is Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr, whose co-founder, Russell Munsch, died last month after the chartered plane he was flying in crashed into a mall in Melbourne, Australia.

CarrierWeb confronts a temporary glitch

To buy time to raise more money, logistics hardware maker CarrierWeb LLC on March 6 filed for Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia, listing liabilities of up to $50 million. The Smyrna, Ga.-based debtor owes $150,000 to AT&T Mobility, which provides cellular data service to the CarrierWeb hardware that’s installed in trucks. The information that’s monitored through CarrierWeb and AT&T Mobility is typically fuel tax calculations and driver hours and is transmitted to trucking companies through a private cloud. “This filing is a temporary glitch while the company seeks new financing options,” said debtor counsel G. Frank Nason of Lamberth, Cifelli, Ellis & Nason. “The investments we had arranged did not come to fruition quickly enough and we didn’t want AT&T to terminate data services that would affect our operations.

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