Road funding

Coopersville environmental consulting firm files for Ch. 11 bankruptcy; is considering selling to a competitor

COOPERSVILLE — A West Michigan-based environmental consulting firm has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as it positions itself to sell the business to an industry competitor.

Superior Environmental Corp. filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Michigan on Feb. 25 under Subchapter V of the federal bankruptcy code, a variant of Chapter 11 designed to speed up the process and make it more accessible to small and medium-sized businesses.

Coopersville-based Superior Environmental cited extreme staff turnover and difficulties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic as reasons for the drop in revenue. The company also faces a $584,000 judgment payout in a lawsuit brought by a former client.

In the bankruptcy filing, Superior Environmental claimed $1.29 million in liabilities versus $1.28 million in assets. The company employs 18 full-time and two part-time people in addition to calling on a variety of contractors. His bi-weekly payroll is approximately $42,000.

In an affidavit filed Feb. 28 on behalf of Superior Environmental chief operating officer Jeff Skendrovic, who has worked for the company for 32 years, the company explained how it plans to liquidate before selling its non-cash assets to Saginaw. AKT Peerless Environmental Services LLC for $250,000 via a Section 363 sale.

In the statement, Skendrovic said the company’s board had sought a strategic buyer and had received a letter of intent from AKT Peerless. Skendrovic wrote that he expects the sale to close quickly and that AKT Peerless would have the option of hiring Superior employees while also taking on existing projects, including accounts with companies such as AT&T, the state of Michigan and national convenience store chain Casey’s Retail Co.

Dam of difficulties

At its peak, Superior Environmental generated $7.5 million in revenue in 2016. That figure fell to $2.67 million in 2021 and to $114,147 so far in 2022, until filing for bankruptcy. .

Skenrovic’s affidavit describes a variety of hurdles that have stumbled the company since it had a banner year in 2016.

In 2017, staff from the company’s Bay City office left to work for a competitor, dealing a severe blow to revenue at Superior, which operates offices in Michigan, Connecticut and Illinois.

The company also cited pandemic-induced market pressures as a reason for the revenue slump, including inflation, talent shortages, and the fact that, for a time, Superior could only move forward on projects for businesses deemed essential during periods of closure.

The final blow to the company’s solvency came following a 2018 lawsuit filed by former client CA Murphy Oil for an alleged breach of contract, the filing said. The allegations date back to the 1990s.

That case came to a resolution in 2021, when a judge awarded Murphy $584,000. After the court ruling, several key personnel tendered their resignations, including key personnel from Superior’s Connecticut office and the company’s CEO.

The decision left Superior Environmental looking for a strategic buyer, saying the sale would allow parties with secure priority claims to be paid in full. Parties with unsecured and non-priority claims are also expected to receive distributions in excess of 50%.

In addition to a number of unsecured claims of less than $15,000 by Superior’s ESOP members for acquired stock payments, major unsecured creditors include Murphy’s Oil ($584,000), the US Small Business Administration ($43,347) and Bowling Green, Ohio Environmental Recycling Group ($21,094).

On Tuesday, a judge responded to Superior’s emergency motion, granting the company the right to use cash collateral to pay employee obligations and continue benefits programs. The company will continue to pay salaries, rent and utilities, anticipating a small loss between filing its petition and selling the business.

Grand Rapids attorney Steve Bylenga CBH Lawyers & Advisors PLLC represents Superior Environmental and declined to provide additional comment on the matter.