Tags: Detroit | test | struggling | city

Detroit 'Gut Kick' Poses Latest Test for Long-Struggling City

Thursday, 18 Jul 2013 06:56 PM

Michigan Avenue’s LJ’s Lounge has survived its share of setbacks over the years. The latest “is like a kick in the gut,” manager Sue Wallace said.

“There’s going to be a lot of people suffering” from Detroit’s race into bankruptcy court Thursday, Wallace said in an interview. “I pray like hell we’re not one of ’em.”

Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s emergency fiscal manager, sought protection for the Motor City under Chapter 9 of the U.S. bankruptcy code to deal with more than $18 billion in debt and long-term obligations. In a statement, the bankruptcy lawyer said he had “no reasonable alternative” to seeking a legal shield from creditors through the court filing.

The move was inevitable, said Steven Rattner, a New York financier who headed President Barack Obama’s auto-industry task force in 2009 that put the predecessors of General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC into bankruptcy reorganizations.

“It’s analogous to the auto companies, in that you have too many stakeholders whose claims are too underwater to have realistically ever worked this out without some kind of bankruptcy,” Rattner said in an interview. “I felt the same way about the auto companies as I did about Detroit from the first moment -- bankruptcy was the only option. Unfortunately, I think it was always inevitable.”

GM and Chrysler each emerged from Chapter 11 reorganizations in about six weeks and have since developed popular new models and returned to profitability. Detroit won’t be as easy to fix, Rattner said.

Much Messier

“This will be much messier than the auto companies,” he said. “This will go on for a long time.”

“You’re going to have much bigger haircuts for the workers and that’s going to mean much more pain than the workers for the auto companies were asked to bear,” Rattner said.

That’s what worries Wallace and other Detroiters.

“Unfortunately, some of the customers who come in here are going to suffer,” said Wallace, who was born and raised in Detroit. “We’ve been here since 1985 and we’ve seen a lot of ups and downs. We’re glad we made it this long and we hope we make it a little longer.”

Michel Soucisse, manager of Mudgie’s Deli on Porter Street, shares her concern.

“I really fear that Detroit will be cut apart by its creditors and some of our assets will start to be sold off willy-nilly,” he said in an interview. “I really hope it means that we get to keep our assets and get help at the same time.”

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“This will be much messier than the auto companies,” says the man who led the auto-industry task force in 2009 that put the predecessors of General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC into bankruptcy reorganizations.
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Thursday, 18 Jul 2013 06:56 PM
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