ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A federal bankruptcy judge has approved Kake Tribal Corp.'s bankruptcy reorganization plan, company officials said.
Kake Tribal officials said Thursday the move means the company can now repay unsecured creditors millions of dollars and move forward with new business ventures.
When the company filed for Chapter 11 protection in 1999, it had about $15.5 million in debt, chief executive Sam Jackson said at the time. Jackson was in Prince Rupert on Thursday and could not be reached for comment.
Since it was created by Congress in 1971 under a land claims act, Kake Tribal was largely a logging, fishing and construction firm. It weathered industry downturns but succumbed to Chapter 11 after shareholder lawsuits over life insurance programs forced Kake Tribal to pay out hefty sums.
The corporation, based in Kake on Kupreanof Island south of Juneau, has about 650 Native shareholders. Since the Bankruptcy Court filing, Kake Tribal has cut overhead and administrative expenses and made other efficiencies, the company said.
Within a few weeks it expects to make initial payments to all unsecured creditors, including shareholders, according to a Kake Tribal shareholder news release. The payments will come from money the company received in a land exchange with the federal government.
A key component of the land exchange was the $9.5 million the company received for trading forested land near the village for federal acres it could log elsewhere in Southeast, company executives said.
The company owns logging, seafood, fuel and tourism subsidiaries. It hopes to open a trash recycling plant soon on north Kupreanof. The plant would take garbage that Southeast towns now barge to Seattle, burn it and use the steam for electricity. The village of Kake relies on diesel generators for electricity and would like to shift to a cleaner, cheaper energy source, the company said.
The project is one example of how the village corporation plans to shift toward year-round businesses and away from seasonal, resource-based industries, the company said.
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