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Shrunken Lauth emerges from reorganization

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Lauth Investment Properties, which holds the remains of the real estate empire of Lauth Group, announced its emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization Friday, with about $25 million and a portfolio of properties valued at $35 million.

The announcement ends a two-year court battle that left the once-mighty Indianapolis-based company a tiny—but still living—player in the world of real estate development.

When it filed for bankruptcy protection in May 2009, Lauth declared $759 million in total assets and $635 million in liabilities. The company, which once employed 450, now has 27 employees.

Lauth is still developing or managing 23 properties, as well as nine land parcels, according to documents filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Indianapolis.

The amount of its indebtedness means the company has no enterprise value, according to an analysis included in bankruptcy documents.

The bankruptcy reorganization plan estimates that Lauth will pay 75 percent to 100 percent of the $18.6 million it owes Milwaukee-based M&I Bank. M&I will also receive land from Lauth as collateral.

Otherwise, Lauth set aside $21,000 to pay off any unsecured claims, meaning unsecured creditors will receive almost nothing. The company’s equity ownership structure from before its bankruptcy remains intact.

Bob Lauth, who remains CEO of Lauth Investment Properties, said in a statement: “The process we just completed was one we never planned for or expected. Nonetheless, we successfully worked through the myriad details that LIP’s complex structure required. We are glad to have it behind us.”

Indeed, Lauth’s bankruptcy reorganization was dominated by a bitter battle with lender Inland American Real Estate Trust Inc. and Wells Fargo Bank. Inland objected to a 2007 restructuring under which Lauth’s executives transferred their personal liability on loans to a separate entity, thereby shielding themselves. Inland had loaned Lauth $228 million that year.

But, with the help of a mediator, Lauth reached a settlement with Inland, in which the lender received $1 million and Lauth’s equity stake in six properties, including its former headquarters along the northern rim of Interstate 465.

Separately, Wells Fargo Bank accused Bob Lauth and his top brass of transferring assets to their wives just before defaulting on loans. Wells Fargo’s claims are pending in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis.

Meanwhile, Bankruptcy Judge Basil H. Lorch III issued an injunction against any pending or further litigation against Lauth related to its bankruptcy.

Before the 2008 real estate and financial crisis, Lauth had about 60 properties in its development portfolio and was ranked the 13th largest developer in the United States.

 

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