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Heller Ehrman Files for Bankruptcy; Remaining Employees May Not Be Paid
What’s left of San Francisco’s Heller Ehrman, which dissolved in November, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Former Heller partner Peter Benvenutti said the firm filed not because it is out of money, but because its main two creditors, Bank of America and Citibank, have refused to renegotiate the terms of a $5.7 million debt.
Last week a judge ruled that the firm’s San Francisco landlord, 333 Bush Associates, was entitled to a $48 million writ of attachment. A portion of Heller’s assets were immediately frozen, and Bush Associates became a secured creditor, ahead of dozens of unsecured creditors waiting in line for their money.
Benvenutti says the firm is collecting money and expects to recover “tens of millions” in collections going forward. The firm has $3.7 million in cash, and expects to recover about $35 million in accounts receivable. The firm’s liabilities consist of the $5.7 million it owes to lenders, $10 million in other accounts payable and $4 million in taxes.
There are 54 employees left at Heller. The firm has no cash to pay them their regular salaries, and its main banks froze $6.5 million in the firm’s accounts upon learning that the firm might file for bankruptcy. The firm filed first-day motions with the court, asking to use cash collateral to pay the remaining employees, who have also been promised 100% retention bonuses in exchange for staying on.
The firm says it hopes to repay the bank lenders in the next three or four weeks.