Commander bankruptcy delayed for fourth time

Wednesday, May 23, 2012
This file photo shows the former Commander Premier Aircraft Corp. 52,000-square-foot municipally-owned hangar at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport on Sept. 26, 2011. (Fred Lynch)

TYLER, Texas -- A federal judge for the fourth time has continued the bankruptcy hearing of a failed airplane manufacturer that owes Cape Girardeau coffers more than $800,000 in unpaid lease obligations on a city-owned hangar at the regional airport.

Judge Bill Parker of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Tyler has given Commander Premier Aircraft Corp. until June 19 to come to terms with a party that is interested in reorganizing the company that was evicted from the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport hangar in October.

"They had a late entry in making a proposal to reorganize so the judge decided to continue," city manager Scott Meyer said.

An unnamed firm has announced its intention to buy Commander Premier, which means the city has a better shot of recouping more of its losses, Meyer said. City officials had filed a motion asking Parker to convert the company's bankruptcy status from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7. That would allow the company's assets to be sold so the city could recoup a bigger portion of its losses.

But Meyer said the city is now using that as leverage to push the Texas-based company to resolve its financial problems more quickly. The city now stands to gain more under a reorganization than a liquidation, Meyer said, because Chapter 7 would allow the company basically to "sell their parts for scrap." But Commander doesn't want that because that would mean it would lose special Federal Aviation Administration certification.

One of the terms of the reorganization is that the city would collect about $250,000 up front from the new investor, Meyer said.

"There's no reason to play around with a little bit of money," Meyer said. "We also wanted the new investor to show us they're serious."

A Texas attorney hired by the city is also working with Commander lawyers to put together a timeline. Meyer also noted that the new investor is not Ronald Strauss, the Canadian financier who had shown interest in buying the company, but could never pull a deal together.

The judge's decision Tuesday provided just another step toward putting to rest an issue that has incensed city leaders for seven years, when it was first announced that Commander was relocating to Cape Girardeau and would be leasing the 52,000-square-foot building. The company got off to a rocky start and then failed to manufacturer a single plane. The number of employees the company announced never materialized, and the company stopped making lease payments in 2007. Commander later filed for bankruptcy.

Mayor Harry Rediger said Tuesday that he remains frustrated, but the city has few options at this point.

"We really don't have much more to lose," Rediger said. "If we could get a significant gain by waiting or force the issue and get little, we're probably where we need to be heading. I just want it to be over, as we all do."

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

Tyler, Texas

Cape Girardeau Regional Airport, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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