Béliveau & Comeau now bank­rupt

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Staff, Stanstead

Bank­ruptcy trustee Michel Paré, of Mal­lette, con­firmed to the Stanstead Jour­nal that Béliveau & Comeau has been of­fi­cially bank­rupt since last Fri­day, when he took over the op­er­a­tions of the com­pany. On Fri­day, he and oth­ers from his firm were in­side tak­ing in­ven­tory and the locks were changed.

Ac­cord­ing to the prin­ci­pals of Béliveau & Comeau, brothers Ja­son and Eric Poitras, the busi­ness had been strug­gling since they took over in the dreaded at­mos­phere of Septem­ber 2008, when the econ­omy sank, fol­lowed a cou­ple of months later by the bank­ruptcy of Chrysler. Even then the com­pany had been sold by none other than Daim­ler-Benz to an equi- ty firm the year be­fore, the Ger­man firm tak­ing a multi-bil­lion dol­lar loss on its in­vest­ment. For the first time ever, gas prices in the United States had gone over $4.00 US a gal­lon dur­ing the sum­mer and sales of the main­stream prod­uct of Chrysler, SUVs and trucks, took an un­heard of beat­ing.

“We took pos­ses­sion of the deal­er­ship at the worst mo­ment,” con­curred the brothers in an hour long

meet­ing at the Stanstead Jour­nal. “From day one, we had cash flow prob­lems and we strug­gled to meet our obli­ga­tions. Yet, our sales, con­sid­er­ing the sit­u­a­tion, were not that bad and while we were strug­gling day by day, we were al­ways man­ag­ing to stay afloat.”

But, they told us, af­ter their ac­count man­ager at Des­jardins left for re­tire­ment in March, things started to change for the worse. “We will ad­mit that we were be­hind on our pa­per­work, but when a new ac­count man­ager came on board, we were asked for pa­pers af­ter pa­pers, and ob­vi­ously our debt ra­tio did not con­form to the term of the con­tract signed in 2008. They did not then and didn’t in March 2011 ei­ther.”

The Poitras told the Stanstead Jour­nal that some­time in Spring they ap­proached an in­vestor who was will­ing to help them, they then de­cided to pro­tect their busi­ness for a cou­ple of weeks by ask­ing to be put un­der the protec- tion of cred­i­tors act, which was done on May 6th. “This was giv­ing us the breath­ing space that we needed, our in­vestor –ru­moured to be an­other Town­ships deal­er­ship-would have in­vested the money needed to keep the fran­chise go­ing and the Caisse would have had ei­ther to take a loss or do a rad­i­cal re­struc­tura­tion of its loan, but we would have con­tin­ued go­ing and our ten em­ploy­ees would still have their jobs to­day.”

Asked if they had had any vis­its by a Caisse of­fi­cial over the years, tak­ing a look at their busi­ness and dis­cussing things with them, they said that be­fore the real trou­ble be­gan no one vis­ited the premise for a busi­ness meet­ing.

This is the third ma­jor bank­ruptcy to im­pact the Caisse this year, Gran­ite Slab and the White House were the other two.

The Caisse’s sworn state­ment, by Jean-François Fon­taine, has very strong lan­guage against the Poitras brothers, but the main con- ten­tious point is that the Caisse says that while the com­pany showed $348,900 in used ve­hi­cles, the Caisse said that the amount should have been $82,465. All in all, in the state­ment of claims pre­sented to the Court last week, the Caisse said that it is owed $630,000, while orig­i­nal loans backed by mort­gages signed in 2008 were to the amount of $365,000. The Cen­tre Lo­cal de Développe­ment, who in­vested $150,000 is still owed the same amount, the Poitras’ claim­ing that they had paid the in­ter­est fol­low­ing an agree­ment with the CLD a cou­ple of years ago.

The Caisse also lent a mort­gage to one of the prin­ci­pals a cou­ple of weeks be­fore they said that they would re­call the loans if a new in­vestor was not found soon. Ques­tions to the Caisse re­gard­ing other trans­ac­tions could not be an­swered read­ily by its lawyer, Me. Charles Gos­selin, who told us late yes­ter­day af­ter­noon that he had not had the proper time to look at them.

Michel Comeau told the Stanstead Jour­nal that he and his brothers are owed $100,000 while he is owed per­son­ally $35,000 in back wages. “I will for­feit it be­cause I’m so sad to see the place where me and my brothers worked for decades closed. This is a sad af­fair for us.”

The de­spon­dent Poitras brothers are hopeful that a new in­vestor will be found soon and the busi­ness would re­open in the next cou­ple of weeks. “We had such sup­port from the com­mu­nity over the years that we owe it to them to re­open.”

Sources close to the sit­u­a­tion told the Stanstead Jour­nal that peo­ple al­ready in­volved with the day to day op­er­a­tion of Béliveau & Comeau, with the back­ing of an ex­ist­ing deal­er­ship, are ne­go­ti­at­ing with the bank­ruptcy trustee to re­open the fa­cil­ity as soon as pos­si­ble. At the late hour that this was said to us, it was im­pos­si­ble to reach any of the ru­moured in­vestors.

pho­tos Stanstead Jour­nal

The Be­liv­eau-Comeau car deal­er­ship is now bank­rupt, as the no­tices on the front door make clear.

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