One thing became quickly clear after we moved to Delaware. If you live here, you are probably: (a) an attorney, (b) an engineer, (c) a DuPont, or (d) all of the above. This is evident everywhere. Even Christmas.
A Very Longwood Christmas: DuPonts as Conservationists
One of our first holiday outings was a trip to Longwood Gardens. The property has a long history, passing from the Lenni Lenape tribe to the Quaker farmers who first planted an arboretum there. In 1906, when a lumber miller operator acquired the property, Pierre S. du Pont intervened to save the trees. Today, Longwood is one of the country’s leading horticultural display gardens.
The gardens go all out for A Longwood Christmas. The conservatory is decked out for the holiday like Versailles, with topiaries, wreaths, and more than 50 trees trimmed in holiday hues and crystal ornaments. Thousands of floating cranberries, apples, and gilded walnuts create an intricate mosaic styled after a French parterre garden. Fountains dance to holiday music, carolers stroll, and half-million twinkling lights deck the halls, trees, and everything in between.
Unlike California, however, boots, warm coats, scarves, and mittens are not fashion accessories. They are essential. The temperature today? A brisk 28 degrees. I highly recommend frequent stops for hot chocolate. Or a stop by the Beer Garden for bratwurst, a beer, some hard cider, or a nip of Bailey’s in that hot cocoa.
We are now members, so if you are in town and would like to visit the gardens, let me know! (I have extra gloves and hats.)
The Hagley Museum: DuPont Holiday Decorations and Explosives
We also visited the Hagley Museum, another not-to-be-missed Wilmington destination. The 1803 du Pont family ancestral home, Eleutherian Mills, features holiday decorations and interpretations of the French New Year’s gift exchanges and Twelfth Night celebrations.
After touring the house, we stopped at the DuPont: The Explosives Era exhibit. Then on to a tour of the powder yards with their historic stone structures that housed the powder manufacturing process, working 19th-century machinery, waterwheels and turbines powered by the river, and a sixteen-ton operating roll mill. And what better way to wrap up than watching the black powder explosion demonstrations? Unless its a stop at the site and debris of one of the largest accidental explosions in the history of the yards. Ka-boom!
Holiday Cookies: Jumbles by Louisa de Pont
Jumbles were a classic 19th century cookie. Louisa Gerhard du Pont (1816-1900), wife of Henry du Pont (1812-1889), apparently used rose water in her recipe. The Hagley is giving out copies to all holiday visitors, so I am including the recipe here. I don’t have any rose water on hand. But if any of you want to try some du Pont-inspired baking, let me know how it turns out!
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon rose water
Cream together butter and sugar. Add remaining ingredients. Make cookies by placing about a teaspoon of dough on a buttered cookie sheet and flattening out with the bottom of a glass dipped in granulated sugar. Bake at 350 degrees until edges are slightly brown.
As I acclimate to eastern winters, the fires ravaging California’s canyon country put things in perspective. While my friends, family, and colleagues are all safe, the destruction is staggering and has left people, literally, running for their lives while scrambling to get horses and other animals to safety.
Having lived in Southern California for 26 years, I have experienced the increasing heat and drought. I have been told to prepare to evacuate while at home with a newborn. And I have rushed with neighbors to put out fires and seen homes destroyed. There is nothing more unsettling than the pervasive smell of smoke, and no more primal fear than that of a fire.
Fleeing the Thomas Fire
To put things into perspective for people here on the east coast, one of my dearest friends, Wendy Gerard, lives in Ventura in the Scenic Drive neighborhood, which was overrun by the Thomas Fire. Picture a Category 1 hurricane barreling down on your community. Now replace rain with fire. Wendy and her family fled, landing first at a shelter, then bouncing from friend’s house to friend’s house as they searched for temporary housing. Everyone is safe. Her house is still standing. They have insurance. But it could be months before she can return home. This is all that remains of her neighborhood.
Horses Killed and Displaced by Fast Moving Fires
Wendy is a brilliant attorney with a generous heart and passion for horses. Her own horse is safely stabled in Simi Valley. But Ventura and San Diego are horse country, and not everyone has been so lucky. Roughly 60 horses have perished in the Lilac and Creek Fires, trapped in stables that burned. Many more have been injured and displaced. But when fires strike, Californians pull together and put their lives on the line to help save our horses.
How You Can Help
The Humane Society of Ventura County is one of many organizations that is on the front line. It is working hard to care for more than 300 horses and other animals it has taken in since the fires began. More are coming in daily. I spoke with Wendy, and they do excellent work. I can’t be there to help Wendy. But I have made a donation on her behalf to help the HSVC with hay, cat chow, rabbit food, water troughs, fruit, snacks, and other items that they urgently need for their new boarders. If you want to help as well, they have set up an Amazon registry wishlist or you can make cash donations on HSVC’s website.
I have barely unpacked my suitcases, and yesterday the Commercial Law League of America (CLLA) announced that a bankruptcy venue reform bill will be proposed this week in the U.S. Senate. The bill will to seek to change the venue rules for filing Chapter 11 business cases. If you want to view the CLAA’s press release, it is available here. (The CLLA previously supported S.314 (109th Congress 2005-2006) and H.R.2533 (112th Congress 2011-2012), which were not enacted.)
A Very Old Debate
The venue rules were already a long-standing topic of debate when I began practicing law over 20 years ago. In fact, the argument has been ongoing for roughly 40 years. And it has not dramatically changed over the decades. Rather, it is a debate that periodically ebbs and flows in public discourse.
If you’re a newcomer to the conversation, the gist of the debate is this.
On one hand, some people argue that current law gives debtors too much leeway in deciding where to file bankruptcy, allowing them to “shop” for favorable venues.
On the other hand, some people argue that existing venue laws work, allowing debtors the flexibility to choose a venue that provides them with the best opportunity to reorganize and maximize estate value.
The Significance of the Venue Debate
Why does this matter? Because the District of Delaware and the Southern District of New York attract the largest share of Chapter 11 filings. In fact, they have attracted more than 75% of large public company filings since 2010.
What to Expect Next?
The bill was introduced on January 8, 2017. More information is available in my follow up post.
Stayed tuned as I track the proposed bill and provide updates on the latest developments.
Rentech, Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware today. It plans to sell its Fulghum Fibres and New England Wood Pellet subsidiaries (which did not file). And it is winding-down its remaining operations.
The Company’s Operations
Rentech is a Los Angeles-based company that processes wood fibre into wood chips and pellets. Its subsidiary, FulghumFibres is the largest independent processor of wood fibre. And its New England Wood Pellet subsidiary is one of the largest producers of bagged pellets for the U.S. heating market. Customers include Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Tractor Supply. Rentech also owns two wood pellet facilities in Eastern Canada. With exclusive priority access at the Port of Quebec, the facilities handle, load, and store over 1 million tons of pellets annually.
The Pending Sales
Shortly before filing, the company entered into three asset purchase agreements:
An affiliate of Scott David Chip has offered to buy Rentech’s US-based Fulghum Fibres business.
Lignetics of New England has offered to buy Rentech’s New England Wood Pellet business.
And True North Timber has offered to buy the Atikokan Facility in Canada.
However, the Wawa Facility in Ontario remains idle. Its owner has applied to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for the appointment of a receiver and manager. Ultimately, the receiver will likely sell or liquidate the Wawa Facility as well.
The case number is 17-12958 (CSS). And if you would like more information, the claim agent’s website is here.