Filing Alert: Samuels Jewelers Files… A “Chapter 44”?!

Texas-based retail jewelry store operator Samuels Jewelers has filed its fourth Chapter 11 bankruptcy case. This time, the beleaguered company is hoping for a going concern sale.

The First Three(!) Chapter 11 Cases

Samuels Jewlers traces its origins to a jewelry chain founded in 1891, Barry’s Jewelers, as a single store in Los Angeles. In the 1980s, Barry’s rapidly expanded into indoor shopping malls.  At the time, it was one of the fastest-growing jewelry chains in the country.  But Barry’s experienced small waves of unprofitability, filing Chapter 11 petitions in 1992 and 1997.  Following the second bankruptcy, it changed its name to Samuels Jewelers, its most recognizable brand.  The company filed its third bankruptcy in 2003, emerging with new owners. It later relocated to Texas.

Who Is Samuels Jewelers?

emerald-1137412_1920Gitanjali Gems, an Indian public company, acquired the company in 2006.  Samuels Jewelers operates over 120 stores across 23 states. Its brand names include Roger Jewelers, Andrews Jewelers, Schubach Jewelers, and Samuels Diamonds. In addition to its retail stores, the company has an e-commerce operation.

Why Has It Filed Another Bankruptcy Case?

The company cites several operational problems leading to its bankruptcy filing:

  • Increased industry competition from discount and e-commerce stores;
  • Operational deficiencies;
  • Climbing expenses;
  • A failure to keep up with customer preferences and build up of stale inventory.

The company has also been hard-hit by negative publicity associated with an investigation by the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into Gitanjali – Samuel Jewelers’ sole equity holder and one of its suppliers and lenders. The CBI has alleged that Gitanjali and others defrauded multiple Indian banks. Samuels’ states that some of its former directors, board members, and executives have been implicated, including its former CFO and president. While Gitanjali is no longer operating, this has disrupted Samuels Jewelers’ product supply and funding sources. And the situation has caused the company to lose standing with vendors, resulting in terminated relationships and more supply chain disruption. Moreover, according to the company new details and allegations continue to surface.

Samuels is at least the second jewelry company to file a chapter 11 case this year in the aftermath of a CBI investigation. In February, Firestar Diamond filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection following news reports in India that its majority shareholder and parent had colluded with Punjab National Bank to obtain over $1 billion in unauthorized loans.

The (Hail Mary) Sale Effort

Although Samuels Jewelers says it is seeking a sale, its filings indicate it has yet entered into a purchase agreement with anyone. In fact, it has not even hired an investment banker. That is “in process,” it says. But the company states optimistically that it has received “some indication of interest” and is “hopeful” that a sale will be possible.

Meanwhile, Samuels Jewelers plans to start selling excess inventory and run store closing sales.  It has enlisted a joint venture of Gordon Brothers Retail Partners and Hilco Merchant Resources as an asset disposition consultant to help with that effort.

Because Samuels Jewelers is pursuing a potential going-concern sale, the consulting agreement includes a fiduciary out provision to allow the  company to terminate the agreement and pursue a partial or full going-concern sale.

The Committee Formation Meeting

girl-1438138_1920.jpgThe committee formation meeting is set for Thursday, August 16, 2018, at 10:00 a.m. It will be held at The Du Pont Hotel in Wilmington, DE. While you’re there, you can check out the “classy nouveau Victorian-inspired” lobby makeover by acclaimed New York architect and interior designer Campion Platt. Or stay in touch with your office with their new, top of the line Wi-Fi.  But definitely stay inside.  The weather forecast?  83 degrees, a downright tropical 65% humidity, and scattered thunderstorms.

Case Information

The case number is 18-11818, and it is pending in the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. The case has been assigned to Judge Kevin Carey. Prime Clerk is the claims and noticing agent.  For more information, you can view the company’s “first-day” global declaration here.

Mette K.

Filing Alert: Real Mex Files “Chapter 22” Bankruptcy Case

Real Mex Restaurants, a California-based company and one of the nation’s largest full-service Mexican casual dining restaurant chain operators, filed for “Chapter 22” protection on Monday, August 6, 2018.

Who Is Real Mex?

Real Mex operates three restaurant chain brands: El Torito, Chevy’s Fresh Mex, and Acapulco Mexican Restaurant.  It also operates two El Torito Grills, Singual, and Laguna Beach landmark, Las Brisas. From a high of approximately 128 restaurants in 2012, today it operates about 70 restaurants.  Almost all are in California. In addition, Real Mex has 11 franchised restaurants across the US.

The First Chapter 11 Case

The Real Mex debtors purchased the restaurant family in 2012 through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy sale. At that time, Tennenbaum and Z Capital were secured noteholders. They emerged as the new company’s majority owners. Today, the Real Mex debtors include a holding company, RM Holdco LC, and five affiliates.  

Why Has Real Mex Filed a 2nd Bankruptcy Case?

Real Mex cites to many problems leading to its bankruptcy filing:

  • Operational inefficiencies;
  • Losses and shut-down costs associated with an unprofitable centralized food purchasing and distribution service and specialty product manufacturing business;
  • Millions of dollars in costs, and lingering litigation, associated with shuttering underperforming locations;
  • Millions of dollars in costs resulting from failed expansion efforts;
  • Risk-management expenses;
  • Rising employee wages and high rent costs, particularly in California;
  • Deferred maintenance at some locations; and
  • Rising financing costs.

The Sale  Effort

Real Mex has engaged industry-expert Piper Jaffray to market the company for sale. Ultimately, the process resulted in a high bid by one of the company’s current owners, Z Capital.  The “headline” purchase price is $46.75 million. Real Mex has proposed the following sale timeline:

  • Bid deadline: Sept. 21, 2018
  • Auction: Oct. 4, 2018
  • Sale hearing: Early October 2018

Case Information

The case number is 18-11795, and it is pending in the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. The case has been assigned to Judge Mary F. Walrath. KCC is the claims and noticing agent.  If you are looking for more information, you can view the company’s “first-day” global declaration here.

Mette K.

Rule Changes for the Central District of CA: New Signature Requirements

Effective tomorrow, the Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California has implemented a significant change in its signature requirements for documents filed through CM/ECF.

Documents requiring the signature of a debtor or any other party (with the exception of registered CM/ECF filers) must bear a holographic signature.  And the familiar Electronic Filing Declaration will no longer be accepted.  

Legal nerds and insomniacs can click on the following links to view the changes:

A complete list of new, revised, and retired local rules and forms for the Central District of California, effective as of December 1, 2017, can be found here.  Local forms are available here.  The changes include the following:

  • LBR 1002-1(f)): deleted and superseded by new LBR 9011-1.
  • LBR 1017-2(f): amended to specify that the Court retains jurisdiction in dismissed cases to enforce issues listed in LBR 1017-2(f).
  • LBR 3015-1: the national rules addressing chapter 13 were updated, effective 12/1/17, which necessitated a comprehensive update to this LBR.  Amendments also encourage uniformity and clarity in chapter 13 practice.
  • LBR 3020-1: amended to clarify the requirement for certain language to be included in a Chapter 13 plan confirmation order and specify the effect of conversion from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7.
  • LBR 7055-1(b): amended to reflect a change in the renumbering of 50 U.S.C. Chapter 50.
  • LBR 7064-1: amended to specify that bankruptcy evictions are handled by the U.S. Marshals Service and the exact language to be included in an eviction order.
  • LBR 7067-1: amended to reflect changes in the national registry fund fee structure and add a requirement to use a local form order.
  • LBR 9011-1: new LBR specifies signature requirements for electronically filed documents.

Mette K.