Is a vehicle to ditch its obligations to its ESOP holders. Hobbico is an employee-owned company so all its employees get tax advantaged contributions of stock in the company. The catch is that when an employee leaves or is laid off (and Hobbico has laid off a lot of people over the last couple of years) they are entitled to a payout of the value of their ESOP shares 60 months after their termination date. Hobbico failed to make scheduled payouts from the ESOP at the end of 2016 and the share value plummeted by 80%. I did some digging and discovered that in 2015 the total value of shares in the ESOP was $70 million with 700 holders of shares for an average value per person of $100,000.
In the bankruptcy, claims of the ESOP holders are subordinate to all other creditors. Assuming Hobbico finds a buyer, the ESOP shares remain with the bankrupt company and the shareholders get whatever is left after all other creditors have been paid. Hobbico just received permission from the bankruptcy court to access $70 million in debtor-in-possession financincing to keep the restructuring going and find a buyer. This financing is senior to all other debt the company has and, presumably coincidentally, is about the same as the ESOP valuation in 2015. The sale of the company will also free it from the ongoing investigation by the Federal government into mismanagement of the ESOP.
So my guess is that Hobbico is sold and survives in some form, although maybe it won't remain in Champaign, IL, but spare a thought for the 700 or so current and former employees who are going to see a good chunk of their retirement savings wiped out by this move. Note that, like stocks in 401k's, ESOPs are not covered by Federal government pension guarantees.
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