The Kerryman (Tralee Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - By SI­MON BROUDER

MA­JOR New York build­ing firm Nav­il­lus, which is owned by a Kerry fam­ily, has ap­plied to the US courts for bank­ruptcy pro­tec­tion in the wake of a record $76 mil­lion judge­ment against it.

Last month at Man­hat­tan Fed­eral Court, Nav­il­lus, which was founded by Ballinskel­ligs man Donal O’Sul­li­van in the mid 1980s, was hit with the $76 mil­lion fine af­ter it was found guilty of in­vent­ing a com­pan­ion com­pany to avoid pay­ing union wages and ben­e­fit pay­ments.

The fine was one of the big­gest ever handed down in the US in a case of this kind.

Nav­il­lus has now re­turned to court to file for Chap­ter 11 bank­ruptcy – sim­i­lar to the Ir­ish ex­am­in­er­ship process – which is typ­i­cally used in the US to res­cue trou­bled com­pa­nies.

The Kerry-owned com­pany is seek­ing Chap­ter 11 pro­tec­tion as it ap­peals a ju­di­cial de­ci­sion not to per­mit a stay on the pay­ment of the fine un­til an ap­peal of the judge­ment has been con­cluded.

Nav­il­lus has opted to seek Chap­ter 11 pro­tec­tion which, if granted, will pro­vide the com­pany with pro­tec­tion for its cred­i­tors and al­low it time to re­struc­ture its debts.

Chap­ter 11 – the most com­plex and ex­pen­sive form of bank­ruptcy that can be sought in the US – is usu­ally filed by firms that re­quire time to re­struc­ture their debts. It gives the debtor a fresh start, pro­vided they ful­fil all obli­ga­tions agreed un­der a plan of re­or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Nu­mer­ous large U.S. com­pa­nies – such as Gen­eral Mo­tors and United Air­lines – have pre­vi­ously filed for Chap­ter 11 and sub­se­quently man­aged to stayed afloat.

At the hear­ing to file the bank­ruptcy pro­ceed­ing, Donal O’Sul­li­van said that, at this time, Nav­il­lus can­not af­ford to pay the fine and main­tain its on­go­ing op­er­a­tions as its as­sets are mainly on­go­ing con­struc­tion projects.

In a let­ter to em­ploy­ees and cus­tomers Mr O’Sul­li­van in­sisted that “it is busi­ness as usual” at the com­pany, that work on all projects will con­tinue and that all staff, con­trac­tors and sup­pli­ers will be paid in full.

Founded by Donal O’Sul­li­van and his broth­ers Leonard and Kevin in 1987, Nav­il­lus has grown to be­come one of the largest con­struc­tion com­pa­nies in New York and has been in­volved in ma­jor projects in­clud­ing con­struc­tion of the new One World Trade Cen­tre tower on the site of the 9/11 ter­ror at­tacks.

Donal O’Sul­li­van – who re­tains close links with Kerry– is now the sole share­holder in the com­pany which em­ploys around 1,600 peo­ple.

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