Bankruptcy Bid Dismissed

Judge dismisses petition clearing way for Society Expeditions to seek monetary damages.

By: Theresa Norton Masek

A Seattle judge last week dismissed the involuntary bankruptcy petition filed against Society Expeditions and cleared the way for the cruise line to seek monetary damages due to any lost business caused by the bankruptcy filing and ensuing publicity.

The bankruptcy judge on Oct. 31 ordered Patrician Cruises Ltd., the group that started the involuntary bankruptcy effort, to post a $500,000 bond by 5 p.m. Nov. 3. When the bond was not posted by the deadline, the case was dismissed.

“There’s a sense of great relief and a certain reassurance,” said John Tillotson, Society’s vice president of operations. “We know we’re a solid company and do the best we can to create a terrific product. We’re prepared to move on to a very exciting future.”

However, Patrician is not dropping the matter, said Patrician spokesman Bruce Fischer.

“It is not going away,” Fischer said. “There’s too much at stake. At the international level with all the (Society) subsidiaries, we’re talking $15 million they owe us.”

The debt stems from charter and commission payments Patrician says Society never paid in exchange for an ownership stake in the line’s one ship, the World Discoverer.

Fischer said the bond did not get posted by the deadline because board members are scattered around the world.

“We’re dealing with international business people, and putting everyone together with less than a day to coordinate is difficult,” he said. “We could not get everyone together to make a decision on the bond.”

Fischer said he would attend a Patrician board meeting last Friday in London, and that a decision would be made whether to refile the involuntary bankruptcy petition and post the $500,000 bond, which is generally standard in an involuntary bankruptcy case.

Meanwhile, Tillotson said Society has lost business and suffered damage to its reputation by the bankruptcy effort.

“Some of our valued agents and clients were uncomfortable and were requesting full and complete refunds for voyages that may be occurring soon,” he said. “Companies said they would not be making further payments until they understood we were free and clear. We just had a brochure go out, and we have been expecting a response, but now we will have to work a little harder to get that response.”

Tillotson would not estimate the amount of lost business. But Society has filed with the court seeking $1 million in expenses and damages.

Tillotson said Society executives are planning to meet with their attorneys to determine the extent of the damage and the money lost.

The World Discoverer has continued cruising as scheduled during the dispute, Tillotson said. It is embarking on its Antarctic season this month.