The Marine Retailers Association of America reports it is working to put together a committee of Genmar dealers interested in being represented as a whole while the boat maker goes through the bankruptcy reorganization process.
New York-based lawyers Leonard Bellavia, from Bellavia Gentile & Associates, and Eric Snyder, from Siller Wilk, along with the Marine Retailers Association of America, recently held a webinar to discuss forming a dealer’s committee to represent dealer interests in the bankruptcy.
Bellavia and Snyder, who were involved in representing auto dealers in the Chrysler and GM bankruptcies, said dealers deserve a “seat at the table” during the Chapter 11 reorganization.
“What you don’t want to do is wait until something happens and then try and get legal representation,” Bellavia said. “We’re on call to examine the court docket on an hourly basis to see what’s happening, whether any activity is taking place that potentially impacts the dealers and respond quickly.”
Unlike other types of litigation, they said, bankruptcy cases can move swiftly through the courts, often giving interested parties only days to respond to motions filed on behalf of the debtor.
To form a committee, Bellavia said they need 150 to 200 dealers to participate, with each paying $1,000 for involvement. The money would be refunded if not enough dealers join and the committee cannot move forward.
One of the main concerns of dealers was the desire to remain anonymous and not have their names, or the names of their dealerships, publicly known for fear of retribution.
Snyder said he would request anonymity of committee members, and while there are “no slam dunks” in legal proceedings, it helps to be able to show a judge evidence of coercion
“We have some information showing coercion by Genmar,” Snyder said, noting coercion can range from a Genmar executive asking a dealer if he planned to join the committee to an out-and-out threat against any dealer who joins the group.
Genmar Holdings chairman Irwin Jacobs called these claims “absolutely ridiculous.”
“I have no intention of reprimanding or causing any dealers any hardship,” he said. “I know nothing about [coercion] whatsoever, and if I find out anybody in our company has done anything to any dealers, I will personally fire them.”
MRAA president Phil Keeter said the association was taking this unprecedented step at the request of the membership and urged those interested to contact him and get their money in now.
Genmar filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on June 1. The company says it has about 1,100 dealers worldwide for its 15 boat brands.
For more information, contact the MRAA at: (708) 763-9210 or on the Web at www.mraa.com.