With messy financial records, SC bankrupt Rickenbaker Gin heads into liquidation | Business
DAVIS STATION – The lawyer for financially-troubled Rickenbaker Gin is asking a judge to sell the company’s assets following a report that shows the long-running agribusiness failed decades ago. years if it hadn’t been backed by high-interest loans and bounced cheques.
West Columbia lawyer Jane Downey’s request would turn the failing cotton processor’s case from a reorganization into a liquidation to raise money to pay off creditors.
Objections to the proposal are due by February 4. If no creditors disapprove, the gin’s remaining assets would be sold to cover what will likely be a small portion of the $8.3 million that is owed.
In a Jan. 14 filing, Downey said the liquidation “would be in the best interests of creditors” and already has approval from the U.S. Trustee’s Office and the Department of Agriculture of SC, the company’s largest creditor. gin. The state agency covered nearly $6.5 million the Clarendon County corporation failed to pay farmers for their crops through a pair of emergency rescue programs.
The liquidation request follows a financial review ordered by the gin court, which showed the 75-year-old family business has been insolvent since at least 2018.
George DuRant, a Columbia accountant who carried out the financial analysis, said in his report that the company had managed to stay afloat thanks to dozens of short-term loans totaling millions of dollars from the friend of the James C. Black family. DuRant said Synovus Bank, where gin had its accounts, also supported the company’s operations by clearing hundreds of NSF checks – while charging nearly $12,000 in overdraft fees – during a six-month period. month.
Neither Black nor Synovus responded to requests for comment from The Post and Courier.
Burchell “Burt” Rickenbaker, the owner of the gin, declared assets totaling about $1.25 million in updated financial statements filed with US bankruptcy court. Some of his business assets have already been sold on a judge’s order, fetching about $45,000.
The revised financials also referenced a criminal investigation into gin’s finances by the state’s Division of Law Enforcement. The statements indicate that the investigation is ongoing.
DuRant, in his report, said it was unclear whether gin’s financial collapse involved fraud because the documents he gave to anal
yze, which was from 2018, were so disorganized.
“As of this date, it may not be practical to create proper accounting due to missing documents and other information that has not been kept…” DuRant wrote. “As was often the case in this review, one document contradicts or refutes another and the explanations rebut the documents.”
Rickenbaker Gin was founded in 1945 by the late Henry Rickenbaker after he returned to tiny Davis Station from his military service in World War II. The company was recognized by the Legislative Assembly in 2003 for its “commitment to the cotton industry in Clarendon County”.
Burt Rickenbaker took over day-to-day operations in 2011, a year after his father’s death. In 2019, the Southeastern Cotton Ginners Association named young Rickenbaker its ginner of the year, ignoring the financial storm that was already brewing.
To reach David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_