PARIS, Maine — In an effort to forestall the eviction of Oxford Aviation from its headquarters, President James Horowitz has transferred the company to himself and filed for personal bankruptcy.
On Nov. 12, Horowitz signed over all property, assets, inventory and leaseholder interests held by Oxford Aviation to himself for $1, then filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Prior to the bankruptcy filing, Oxford Aviation was facing a forcible-entry-and-detainer complaint from Oxford County, which is trying to evict the company from the 40,000-square-foot facility it rents at the Oxford County Regional Airport in Oxford. Forcible entry and detainer is the formal name for an eviction hearing in district court.
In the complaint, filed last month, Oxford County claims the company breached at least 11 terms of the lease it signed with the County Commission less than a year ago.
That complaint, as well as at least two other lawsuits against the company, could become tied up in bankruptcy court.
The company, which claims to employ up to 60 workers, was founded in 1989. It refurbishes, repaints and repairs aircraft.
Attorney George Marcus, who represents Horowitz, said Wednesday the bankruptcy was filed to stave off the county’s suit.
“In order to stop that proceeding and preserve the value of the lease, Mr. Horowitz felt he needed to take this step,”Marcus said. “The intention is to sell the company as a whole, to a buyer, and use the proceeds, hopefully, to pay creditors down.”
Unlike some other forms of bankruptcy filings, Chapter 13 allows a debtor to retain some income and to repay debts over a period of years.
The company is completing the work it has in-house and will not undertake new work pending the outcome of the proceeding, Marcus said.
Reached by phone at the company’s offices Wednesday, Horowitz declined to comment on the bankruptcy.
According to Horowitz’s filing, he has 50 to 99 creditors. Horowitz lists $500,000 to $1 million in both estimated assets and estimated liabilities.
Along with his bankruptcy filing, Horowitz is asking to move Oxford County’s forcible-entry-and-detainer suit from 11th District Court in Paris to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Portland.
However, within a day of the bankruptcy filing, the court returned a notice to comply and ordered Horowitz to provide 21 documents that were either not provided with his initial filing or were obsolete.
Three of the documents, including a list of creditors, are due to the court by Nov. 19. Other documents, including a compiled list of assets and liabilities and a statement of current monthly income, are due Nov. 26.
If the missing documents are not provided, the court intends to dismiss the bankruptcy case.
According to Marcus, filing an incomplete bankruptcy form isn’t out of the ordinary. His office intends to have all of the pertinent documents to the court by the filing deadlines.
How Horowitz’s pending bankruptcy will affect other suits against him was uncertain.
A judge in 11th District Court stayed action on the county’s eviction suit at a hearing Wednesday morning, pending resolution of the case in bankruptcy court.
Speaking after the hearing Wednesday, County Administrator Scott Cole questioned the validity of the bankruptcy filing, claiming the terms of the lease prevent Horowitz from transferring it without the County Commission’s consent.
“The reassignment of the lease from Oxford Aviation by President Jim Horowitz to Jim Horowitz the individual is not allowable without the county’s consent, and the county was never asked,” Cole said.
He said the county intends to take up the matter with the bankruptcy court.
The county and Horowitz have had a sour relationship for years. In 2010, the two parties finally settled a lengthy lawsuit concerning building maintenance. Three years later, the two signed a new lease that gave Horowitz free rent but made him responsible for the cost of maintaining the facilities it leases at the airport on Number Six Road and for submitting quarterly maintenance records to the County Commission.
Cole hoped a different company could use the airport space for repair and refurbishment services.
“We want that type of business to thrive there and make good use of the buildings,” he said.
Oxford Aviation is also facing an eviction suit from Community Concepts Finance Corp. for more than $62,500 in assets Horowitz put up as collateral for a 1996 loan that was never repaid, according to the complaint.
Community Concepts Finance Corp.’s attorney, David Dubord, did not respond to a message left Wednesday afternoon, but Marcus (Horowitz’s attorney) said the bankruptcy filing would affect the case because the assets in question would be under the jurisdiction of the bankruptcy court.
It was unclear how the bankruptcy would affect lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in August by Joseph Skilken and Company and Karen Skilken of Columbus, Ohio.
The couple is claiming more than $674,000 in damages from an incident in which they claim the company failed to properly reattach part of the tail of their plane, causing an emergency landing in Colorado Springs, Colo., in May. In September, the court ruled that Oxford Aviation was in default in the case.
Marcus said he was unfamiliar with the Skilken case and did not know how the bankruptcy would affect it. Contacted Wednesday, David Bertoni, an attorney for the defendants, said he was unaware Horowitz had filed for bankruptcy and was unsure what bearing it would have on his client’s case.