Trailer Bridge Back on Firm Ground

Trailer Bridge Back on Firm Ground

Trailer Bridge is on track to exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy on March 16, four months after the U.S. mainland-Puerto Rico carrier filed for protection from creditors.

“We’re very happy with how everything is going,” co-CEO William G. Gotimer Jr. said. He said the bankruptcy restructuring, set to be confirmed at a court hearing, would leave the Jacksonville, Fla.-based company on solid financial footing.

“Our customers, vendors and employees have supported us and are showing confidence in our future,” Gotimer said. “Several of our customers have signed long-term contracts with us.”

Gotimer and Mark A. Tanner were named co-CEOs in October following the termination of former CEO Ivy Barton Sutter.

Trailer Bridge filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November after it was unable to refinance $82.5 million in maturing 9.25 percent senior secured notes. The company’s services, which include truck transportation in the continental U.S. and barge services to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, have continued uninterrupted since the filing.

Company officials worked out a financial restructuring in which the largest note holders will swap their debt for pro rata shares of $65 million in newly issued notes and 91 percent of the reorganized company’s stock. The note holders agreed to provide exit financing.

Seacor Holdings, an owner and operator of diversified marine and industrial assets, will become Trailer Bridge’s largest shareholder and will have three of the company’s seven board seats. Two other note holders, Whipporwill Associates and Edge Asset Management, will have one board seat apiece.

If Trailer Bridge’s reorganization plan is approved at a March 16 hearing before Judge Jerry Funk, secured creditors and contract parties will receive full payment of their pre-filing claims. Unsecured creditors will be paid from the exit financing facility.

Trailer Bridge was founded in 1991 by Malcom McLean, the late containerization pioneer. It’s the smallest of four liner carriers in the Puerto Rico trade and the only one to steer clear of a major antitrust case alleging price-fixing by carriers between 2002 and 2008.

Horizon Lines and Sea Star Line pleaded guilty to antitrust violations after five of their executives pleaded guilty to felonies. Frank Peake, former president at Sea Star, was indicted last November on antitrust charges.

Horizon, Sea Star and Crowley agreed to pay a total of nearly $58 million to settle civil antitrust lawsuits filed on behalf of direct and indirect customers. Trailer Bridge won dismissal from the civil cases and did not have to pay any settlement.

-- Contact Joseph Bonney at jbonney@joc.com. Follow him on Twitter @josephbonney.