Fish processor being liquidated

Posted: Monday, October 16, 2000

KENAI (AP) -- A former Kenai fish processor will be liquidated, but it's not clear whether the proceeds will cover more than $2 million in debts to fishermen, vendors and workers.

Also unclear is the future of the former Dragnet Fisheries plants in Kenai and Dillingham.

A purchase by Chris Fischer, president of bankrupt King Fischer Fisheries LLC, fell through, and the estates of Rod Cherrier and Earl King have taken the plants back, said Jay Cherrier, president of Cherrier Fisheries in Anchorage.

''They are still for sale, but they're not listed at this point, because we're trying to find out the damage and so on, so we know how to proceed,'' he said. ''There was a lot of damage. There were a lot of things missing. They just left the place -- it was just a mess -- and walked away.''

The owners likely will not decide what to do with the plants, or whether to run them next summer, until after the state releases its 2001 salmon forecasts, Cherrier said.

Chris Fischer could not be reached by the Peninsula Clarion last week. Ron Goss, a Seattle attorney reportedly representing King Fischer, did not return calls Friday.

Gary Sleeper, attorney for Larry Compton, the trustee appointed to liquidate King Fischer assets, said debts listed in the company's bankruptcy filing include $1.05 million to fishermen, $143,000 in wage claims and $892,000 to unsecured creditors -- mainly vendors who provided supplies to fishermen using King Fischer purchase orders.

Chris Fischer said last summer that the company fell into financial trouble when private backers ran into delays arranging financing. The Bristol Bay season was winding down when the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July.

The company bought about 2.4 million pounds of salmon in Bristol Bay and about 60,000 pounds in Cook Inlet, according to Fischer.

King Fischer's primary assets are earnings from those fish, since sold to Japanese buyers. King Fischer made a $500,000 payment in July to the Cherrier and King estates, Sleeper said, and Compton is considering court action to get that back.

King Fischer had $496,000 in an escrow account, he said, and that has been transferred to the bankruptcy trustee. Compton received $100,000 from sales to an independent buyer and expects another $100,000 from similar sales.

Payments for the fish sold in Japan could bring another $250,000 to $800,000, according to Sleeper.

''But the quality of the fish is not as high as was expected, so we're looking at the low end of that,'' he said.

Adding the numbers, the liquidation could bring $950,000 to $1.5 million, plus $500,000 if Compton recovers the July payment to the estates. It remains unclear whether the proceeds will be enough money to pay all creditors.

''Until we sweep into the corners and find what's out there, until the price of the fish is known, until we price the equipment and see what it can be sold for, we just don't know,'' Sleeper said.

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