No 'White Knight' Appears for Troubled RV Park

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January 21, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

With a last-minute investor still elusive, a foreclosure auction sale set for Feb. 26 for the debt-ridden Strawberry Park in Preston, Conn., appears to be going ahead, the Norwich Bulletin reported.

Lawyers for campground owner Hyman Biber met behind closed doors Thursday (Jan. 20) in federal bankruptcy court in Hartford to hash out a mutual agreement with one of the park’s biggest creditors, Strawberry Funding Associates.

When they emerged, many of the motions and countermotions threatening to delay the foreclosure sale were withdrawn without explanation, leaving Judge Albert S. Dabrowski with little to say.

“The foreclosure goes forward, and everybody goes back to their neutral corner,” Mark Stern, attorney for Strawberry Funding Associates, said after the proceedings.

Biber’s attorney, Carl Gulliver, did not rule out a “white knight.”

“It’s several weeks away still, and I think it’s possible one of the several interested parties might come forward to take some productive steps,” Gulliver said.

Strawberry Park and its associated companies remain millions in debt, including a court judgment of $3.4 million to Strawberry Funding Associates and another $8 million for a defaulted loan to TD Bank.

Creditors allege Biber was continuously borrowing money to pay off old debts. Presently, Elite Resorts, a Florida-based RV management company, is running the campground.

Despite the impending sale, Biber remained confident.

“I started 37 years ago with absolutely nothing and built one of the best parks in the country,” he said. “I’m not ready to say goodbye.”

Biber opened the park off Pierce Road in 1974, continuously expanding the number of sites and activities.

There are now more than 500 sites on the 160-acre property, with 189 owned by individuals as part of a cooperative. In 2006 and 2007, sites were selling for an average of $95,000, Biber said.

He also claims the park, which caters to RVs, had its best year in 2009, grossing nearly $3.7 million from campsite rentals, RV rentals and store sales. The growth may have had a downside. In recent court filings, Biber reports debt springing from major capital costs, including $1.2 million for a new septic system and more than $1 million for electrical system upgrades.

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