Fat Lady Sings at Baltimore Opera

The 58-year-old company's bankruptcy filing is reported by the Sun — itself embroiled in Tribune Co.'s Chap. 11. Other petitions come from Advantag...
Stephen TaubDecember 9, 2008

The chorus of bankruptcy filings grows louder by the day. The latest to join in: the Baltimore Opera.

The 58 year-old company is planning a Tuesday filing, according to the Baltimore Sun — which itself became a Chapter 11 operation yesterday with the filing by its parent, Sam Zell’s Tribune Co.

The opera company previously had been reported to be experiencing a major cash-flow shortage, mostly because ticket sales for the season-opening October production of “Aida” came in more than $200,000 below projections. As a result, a board member made a personal guarantee of salaries for last month’s production of Bellini’s tragedy, “Norma.”

The opera had been facing cash-flow problems for year, accumulating deficits, confirmed by its senior director of marketing and communications, Deborah Goetz, as “maybe $800,000.” She told the Sun that the annual operating budget is about $6 million.

The opera house cancelled its two productions of the 2008-2009 season: Rossini’s “Barber of Seville” and Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess.” Apparently, ticket-holders are not scheduled to receive refunds.

In other bankruptcy news, Advantage Rent A Car filed for Chapter 11 protection, according to the San Antonio Business Journal, which said that 440 people had been fired on Monday.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune said Advantage and 14 affiliates had filed separate bankruptcy petitions listing liabilities that ranged from $100,000 to $50 million each, and assets that ranged from $0 to $50 million each. Advantage, which is owned by Denny Hecker Automotive Group, will explore strategic alternatives during the reorganization, including the possibility of a sale or merger, according to press accounts. Meanwhile, it will consolidate its network of car-rental locations, keeping open only its most profitable store locations, according to the report.

And EZ Lube LLC, an automobile oil-change chain with 82 stores in California and Arizona, filed for Chapter 11, according to Bloomberg News, which said EZ Lube reported between $100 million and $500 million in both assets and debts. “The high gas prices experienced over much of 2008 resulted in customers driving fewer miles on average, and thus, oil changes and other services have been needed less frequently,” Stephen V. Coffey, EZ Lube chief restructuring officer, said in court papers.

Bloomberg noted that EZ Lube’s 35 largest consolidated creditors without collateral backing their claims are owed a total of $6.9 million, citing court papers. Exxon Mobil Corp. is the largest unsecured creditor, owed $3.4 million.