A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge signed an order Thursday allowing Rob Doll Nissan to continue to meet payroll obligations and to operate as the company undergoes a Chapter 11 reorganization.
Middle District of Georgia Judge John Laney issued the order after a brief emergency hearing in his court.
Doll & Doll Motor Company, which operates Rob Doll Nissan in Columbus, filed for bankruptcy protection last week. Chapter 11 bankruptcy is often used by businesses to restructure debt.
Doll said the Columbus store, with 24 employees, will continue to operate.
“I sold a car today before I came here,” he said following the Thursday afternoon hearing.
An attorney for Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp. -- the lending arm of Nissan Motors, known as NMAC -- was present for the hearing and negotiated the agreement approved by the judge. NMAC claims Doll & Doll owes it $718,000, primarily for car and parts inventory.
Two other entities owned by Rob Doll are also heavily in debt to NMAC, according to NMAC’s attorney, Kevin Stine of Atlanta.
“All told, he is more than $10 million in debt to my client,” Stine told the judge.
RWD Real Estate LLC, Doll’s real estate company, owns about 14 acres in north Columbus and a near-complete store and service center on Whitesville Road. RWD owes NMAC $8.5 million, Stine said.
Sowega Motor Company, the Doll-owned company that owns and operates the Cadillac-Pontiac-Buick dealership in Americus, Ga., owes NMAC $1 million for vehicle inventory and parts, Stine said. The Americus store is not part of the Doll & Doll bankruptcy filing. General Motors has informed Doll that the Americus store will lose its GM affiliation in October 2010. Doll said he plans to continue to operate the store as a used car store and service center.
Doll’s attorney, J. Robert Williamson of Atlanta, presented a financial plan to the court that the lawyer said will keep Rob Doll Nissan afloat until an Oct. 26 hearing in Laney’s court. Part of that plan provides for the ongoing payment of employee salaries.
The Columbus and Americus stores have greatly reduced inventories because NMAC, which finances new and used car floor plans at both locations, cut off financing for additional inventory in the spring. The dealerships retained the cars that were already financed.
That is what the companies have been selling through the summer.
“The employees are doing double time trying to preserve the business,” Williamson told the court.
Doll faces an important date Oct. 6 when Falcon Financial LLC -- a Connecticut financier -- could go through with its foreclosure of the Nissan location on Box Road. Falcon Financial started foreclosure proceedings on M&R Real Estate LLC, the company that leases the location to Doll & Doll Motors, earlier this month.
If there is a foreclosure that first Tuesday in October, Stine said, “NMAC will come get its inventory off that property.” Williamson said Doll may be able to fend off that proceeding.
“We think that is not going to happen,” said Williamson, Doll & Doll’s lawyer, of the foreclosure.