Society Expeditions Counters Bankruptcy Effort

Seattle-based cruise line seeks $1 million in damages, files to have petition dismissed

By: Theresa Norton Masek

Society Expeditions has launched an aggressive counterattack against the Washington business group trying to force it into involuntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Seattle-based Society filed a motion to have the bankruptcy petition dismissed and also is seeking $1 million in damages.

The luxury-adventure cruise line also released a seven-page packet of information that includes a press release, a company fact sheet and a question-and-answer paper titled “Setting the Record Straight: Society Expeditions is a sound financial company.”

The company, headed by Heiko Klein, maintains that the bankruptcy petition is “groundless.”

“It is unlawful to file an involuntary bankruptcy petition in an effort to try to forcibly take over the company,” a Society statement said.

The petitioner, Patrician Cruises Ltd., financed Society’s acquisition and renovation of its ship and says Society owes $15 million in unpaid charter and commission payments.

Patrician is now owned by a group of Washington business investors called Adventure Expeditions & Travel that will buy Society’s assets if they are sold at a bankruptcy auction, said Bruce Fischer, a spokesman for Adventure.

But Society also is lashing back at what it calls a smear campaign to drive the company into financial problems.

“I am very concerned about the misinformation being spread by Patrician’s management,” said John Tillotson, Society’s vice president of operations. “In court filings and in statements to the media, the company spokesman has distorted the truth about Society in an effort to drive away bookings and financially weaken our company in an obvious attempt to force the sale of Society itself.”

Fischer maintains that his investor group has the documents to back up its assertions. “We feel very strongly that the claim is legitimate and undisputed,” he said.

Society is planning to create an escrow account for all customer deposits “to ensure confidence that the funds would be separate and safe,” Tillotson said.

He said the ship, the 160-passenger World Discoverer, is operating normally in the South Pacific and is 82 percent booked for its upcoming Antarctic season.

“Everything is in place for secure operations,” Tillotson said. “We will be operating this winter season without any doubt.”

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