Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Roller Coaster Ride of Bankruptcy

When this news story popped into my feeder today, I knew Google understands me. Roller Coasters, Fixtures, Bankruptcy, Creditor priority challenges... Its all there.

Six Flags Inc., currently in chapter 11 Bankruptcy, has decided to close its Louisville Park -- Kentucky Kingdom. The dispute relates to the ownership of certain rides in the park. The creditors are Six Flags America and the State of Kentucky. The state of Kentucky (in what appears to be a futile argument) alleges that the rides are affixed to the realty and therefore belong to the state of Kentucky. (The park leased the real property from the State of Kentucky for a term of years). The state also argues that the lease provides that if Six Flags terminates the lease with the state, the landlord will accede to the ownership of the rides.

Taking these issues separately, its clear that the lease agreement between Six Flags and the State of Kentucky establishes certain privileges to personalty on behalf of Six Flags (the tenant). Under the common law trade fixtures doctrine, a tenant has the right to remove those things he attaches to the realty in furtherance of his trade. (I believe its pretty clear that amusement rides would be in furtherance of Six Flag's trade). The single caveat is if the fixtures cannot be removed without damage to the realty. Thus, the rides are not treated as realty, but rather as personalty.

Taking the state's argument that a provision in the lease grants it an interest in the rides if Six Flags terminates its contract with the state, there seems to me to be a question of what type of interest the state obtains. First, in theory the state could obtain such a right, at least in as much as lessees may grant an interest in its property to its lessor. The question is what kind of transaction does this grant create. It seems that when a creditor (in this case a landlord) reduces its claim to a debtor's (in this case a tenant's) property, that is a security interest, and therefore must comply with the provisions of Article 9 -- the problematic point being if there is another creditor in the picture. The state may very well have a security interest, but may lose out in the priority scheme if other creditors have a claim.

If the state's position is that it has a state possessory lien on the tenant's possessions for failure to pay rentals (which does not appear to be the state's theory), the case may be more clear cut -- particularly given the preference for liens under Article 9-333.

Whichever it is, we will keep an eye on this case to see what the bankruptcy court does with the various roller coasters. If the Court needs (after a safety evaluation) a thrill description of the roller coasters in Kentucky Kingdom park, I would be happy to offer my services; though I suspect I would need to include at least four other theme parks in my assessment in order for my report to be complete.

Image is of the Chang Roller Coaster, Courtesy of Coaster Gallery. Chang's statistics are:

Built: 1997

Composition: Steel

Height: 154 Feet

Drop: 144 Feet

Top Speed: 63 mph

Ride Time: 2 Minutes, 30 seconds

MLR (Marc )

1 comment:

Jennifer Martin said...

So, is the plan to move the coasters to another Six Flags then?