LOS ANGELES - Over the roughly two decades that Christopher E. Prince has practiced bankruptcy law, the field has changed quite a bit.
For example, the cost to pursue Chapter 11 has grown beyond what many troubled companies can manage. "You talk to businesses and say, 'Bankruptcy would help you, but your business can't afford to file the case,'" he said.
Because of the costs and the work required early in a Chapter 11, many smaller bankruptcy boutiques can't take on cases for debtor companies. "We're one of the few firms locally that has the capacity to do complicated debtor cases," Prince said.
Even when companies file for Chapter 11 protection, they are far less likely to emerge with their assets intact and their debts reorganized. While previously, a debtor business would have put through a plan of reorganization, now it is far more likely to take the simpler, less costly route of selling its assets. "When I first started my career, that was a relatively rare thing to do, and now it's very common," he said.
That is just what Prince and his partners did to resolve several bankruptcy and litigation matters for one of the largest craft breweries in California. In re Figueroa Mountain Brewing LLC, 9:20- bk-11208 (Bankr. C.D. Cal., filed Oct. 5, 2020).
It was a complicated case because the brewery had multiple locations and secured creditors, and many issues arose requiring extensive litigation. "It was not really practical for there to be a plan of reorganization," he said. "Our goal was to sell the assets... and satisfy the debt, at least in part."
It took lots of litigation and six months of mediation, but they succeeded. "I feel pretty proud of helping to maintain [the brewery's] independence," Prince added. "Most of their peers over the last 10 years or so either went out of business or were acquired by much larger conglomerates and aren't really true craft brewers anymore."
Other matters he has worked on recently include litigations in some sensitive and confidential matters with complex financial issues, including an arbitration about a large real estate development in downtown L.A. and a dispute involving a nonprofit and its former CEO.
He enjoys dealing with tricky financial problems. "It's a little personal interest," Prince said. "I spend a lot of time reading about economics and tax policy."