Home News Local news Judge Grants Change of Venue for Prosser Bankruptcy Cases

Judge Grants Change of Venue for Prosser Bankruptcy Cases

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Dec. 15, 2006 — Innovative Communication Corp. owner Jeffrey Prosser and his embattled companies won a procedural victory Thursday as U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Judith K. Fitzgerald ruled in favor of moving the venue of Prosser's bankruptcy cases from Delaware to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Prosser, owner of Vitelco and other V.I. properties, has been seeking for months to have the cases moved to the territory. The decision will not affect what judge will hear the case, as Fitzgerald, who is based in Pittsburgh, also sits regularly in Wilmington, Dela., and in St. Thomas. She has presided over all hearings in the case to date.
What the change of venue may affect, ultimately, is the fate of appeals, if any, from Fitzgerald's decisions.
Since the venue will now be the territory, any appeals would go to the Federal District Court in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Unless he recuses himself, Judge Curtis Gomez would hear the appeal. Gomez has ties to Prosser through ICC Vice President Holland Redfield, who was instrumental in getting Gomez appointed to his position. Had the suit stayed in Delaware, any appeals would have gone to the Federal District Court in that state.
The Bankruptcy Court has before it claims by Prosser's former longtime bankers, the Rural Telephone Finance Cooperative (RTFC), and the former minority shareholders in Emerging Communications, Inc., one of Prosser's holding companies; the latter are represented by the Greenlight Companies.
RTFC and Greenlight have formed an ad hoc coalition in their suit against the Prosser interests; they filed in Delaware against Prosser and two of his companies seeking involuntary bankruptcy; subsequently Prosser and his companies filed for voluntary bankruptcy in the Virgin Islands.
At one point, all parties agreed on a $524 million settlement but that collapsed when Prosser was unable to secure the necessary loans to fund the settlement. Fitzgerald then ruled against Prosser's efforts to extend a deadline for the settlement.
The next round in this complex battle is now scheduled to take place in Pittsburgh, on Jan. 12, 2007, when Greenlight will seek to tear the veil of secrecy off Prosser's financial situation.
Up until now, the judge has allowed at the request of all parties key financial documents to be kept secret.
But some financial details emerge from time to time, anyway.
In the Dec. 14 opinion, the judge mentions that "Vitelco's annual revenues exceed $65 million …." This figure was previously kept secret by both the judge and the Public Services Commission.
Meanwhile Prosser has been trying to sell Vitelco (by far the largest moneymaker among his companies) and some other properties to the V.I. government for $650 million.
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