The judge in the Premier Exhibitions bankruptcy case has approved the sale of the artifact collection to a hedge fund consortium for $19.5 million. The Equity Committee filed objections to the sale but the judge overruled them. A UK consortium attempted to raise funds to purchase the collection but withdrew after the judge ruled that potential buyers would have to raise $21.5 million to trigger an auction. Criticism of the sale process has been raised by both National Maritime Museum Greenwich (NMMG) and National Museums Northern Ireland (NMNI) who were part of the UK consortium.
It is unknown at this time whether the Equity Committee will appeal the judge’s decision. The artifact sale will still have to be confirmed by the Federal Court in Virginia where the salvage award was litigated.
On 8 Oct 2018, Premier Exhibitions filed a Notice of Cancellation of Auction with the federal bankruptcy court as no other bidders met the minimum required. This means that the bid submitted by PacBridge Capital Partners (HK) et al for $19.5 million will stand. The company will now seek the court approval to sell the company and artifacts to them.
The Equity Committee has filed motions opposing the sale and still seeks other bidders.
The BBC is reporting that the bid by a consortium of museums (Royal Museums Greenwich,National Museums Northern Ireland,Titanic Belfast and Titanic Foundation Limited and others)has been outbid by a hedge fund consortium that bid $19.5 million for the collection. The head of the National Museums of Northern Ireland (NMNI) said that they had not given up hope of bringing the collection to Northern Ireland. While it is not clear whether they can raise additional money, they will stress that selling to them will keep the collection in public ownership. One Titanic expert, Professor John William Foster disagrees.
Foster states: “What happened to Titanic after she left Belfast is, in a sense, none of Belfast’s business,” he said. “As this exhibition circulates the globe, we get a lot of publicity from this, and it’s good publicity – not the publicity from the Troubles, so I’d be keen to see these artefacts keep going around the world.”
Source: Titanic: Museum bid to bring artefacts to Belfast fails (BBC,22 Sept 2018)
1.Pocket Watch From Titanic Victim Sold For $57,500 (Smithsonian,29 Aug 2018) On April 15, 1912, Sinai Kantor was among the more than 1,500 people who lost their lives when the Titanic plunged into the North Atlantic. Recovery workers later pulled his body from the ocean and found a number of items that had been on his person when he died. One of those items, a pocket watch marked with Hebrew letters, recently sold at auction for $57,500, reports the Associated Press. John Miottel, owner of the private Miottel Museum in California, purchased the watch at auction. He already owns a number of timepieces that belonged to Titanic victims, including John Jacob Astor IV, the financier who helped build the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, and Oscar Woody, the Titanic’s U.S. Postal Clerk.
2. Bankrupt Titanic Exhibitor Sets Biggest Sale of Ship Relics (Bloomberg, 30 Aug 2018)
This story, as predicted, is getting more heated now. To sum up: the current owner is bankrupt and wants to sell its most prized possession of all-the historic Titanic artifact collection. In the past getting anyone to put up the money was so difficult–due to constrictions imposed on the salvage award–that no one could afford purchasing it as one set. The article indicates three possible bidders:
1. Daoping Bao, has proposed a plan backed by a bevy of investment funds and Chinese businessmen who have bought $2 million of the company’s debt. Among Bao’s backers are Hong Kong-based PacBridge Capital Partners Ltd. and U.S.-based Apollo Global Management. Bao’s group is pledging to keep the collection intact and within reach of U.S. courts while planning to ramp up scientific and tourist expeditions to the wreck. Bao’s group raised their bid to $19.5 million
2. Titanic Branson
The owners of Titanic Branson and Titanic Pigeon Forge would like to purchase it and have made an offer in the past of $5-10 million that was turned down.
3. James Cameron & Museums: Cameron and a group of museums are offering $19.2 million.
As I suspected earlier, the Chinese are putting up a lot of money so they can move this to their theme park in China where a Titanic replica will be built. Make no mistake on this one, serious money is being put on the table. The downside is that once they are out of the U.S., there is no guarantee they will abide by the salvage award requirements. They claim they will keep it in U.S. but most are not sure they will do this. The bids from the Pigeon Forge and Cameron group is serious as well and both would likely keep the collection together.
And it is still possible that the bankruptcy court could conclude the easiest path is to auction off the pieces and pay off the debt rather than deal with the bids. The Bao group has put down a cash deposit to show they are serious. It is also possible that the government could step in to prevent its sale to Bao. That would leave the other two players. Certainly the Cameron group has museums behind him that know a lot about conserving artifacts. As for Pigeon Forge, they could end up getting it if the court is uncertain of the other two bids and wants to keep it right here in the U.S.
The National Geographic reports that last Friday (29 June 2018) the U.K.’s National Museum and National Museums of Northern Ireland have filed papers with the bankruptcy court pledging to raise $19.2 million to buy Premier Exhibitions and the Titanic Exhibition. Both museums would co-own the artifacts and display them in Belfast. The non-Titanic part of Premier would be acquired by another exhibition firm called Running Subway. It is also reported that the CEO of Running Subway is on the Creditors Committee and that Premier’s creditors support the bid. A rival bid by existing shareholders is offering $17.5 million at the moment. Another proposal from the equity holders calls for splitting up the artifacts and selling them at auction.
The National Maritime Museum is pledging to conserve the artifacts and has the facilities to do it. They are worried that history would end up in private hands and possibly disappear. Famed explorer and one of the two men that can claim to have found RMS Titanic (the other was Jean-Louis Michel of Ifremer also aboard Knorr at the time), Bob Ballard, is a supporter. Certainly this adds a new complexity to the upcoming hearing on July 25 where the proposals will be considered by the court. If they can raise the money, they might be able to pull it off. Then again there are a lot of competing interests and lots of jockeying going on behind the scenes. Also the lawsuit against former officers could have an impact as well though hard to say at this point.
Another fascinating wrinkle in this story. Stay tuned, this is going to be interesting.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that a equity holders and lenders behind Premier Exhibitions have made a $17.5 million offer to acquire the company. The entities involved are PacBridge Capital Partners Ltd., as well as funds affiliated with Apollo Global Management LLC and Alta Fundamental Advisers LLC and other equity holders as well. The papers were filed with the court on 15 June 2018. According to the Wall Street Journal:
The prospective buyers will hold the sale process open to other qualified bidders, with Aug. 8 as the proposed bid deadline. If other interested bidders come forward, an auction would be held on Aug. 13.
This is a very interesting turn of events. Up till now all attempts to sell the artifacts have failed to materialize (including the more recent famous one by James Cameron). Whether this will bear fruit or wither on the vine remains to be seen. You can view the document here.
Source:Titanic Artifacts May Soon Join Apollo, Alta Portfolios (Wall Street Journal, 20 June 2018)
Premier Exhibitions Update-On May 25, 2018 the Bankruptcy Court granted the Equity Committee legal standing to pursue claims against current and former officers and directors of Premier Exhibitions. In short it means they have the ability to demand they pay damages to help reduce the outstanding debts of the company. Since they have retained counsel, it means they expect it will result in litigation to determine whether they are liable and if so, how much they will have to pay.
View original document here.
View materials on the case here.
New Details on Secret Navy Mission Where Titanic Was Found-Some years ago it was revealed Titanic was discovered as part of a secret Navy mission that Ballard was on. He was sent on a mission to try to find out how two U.S. nuclear submarines had sunk. Using new submersible technology Ballard found those wrecks and the approximate location of Titanic. The National Geographic Museum in Washington D.C. reveals more of the details of that secret mission. “Titanic: The Untold Story” delves into the many details that have not been publicly revealed until now.
In 1985, Ballard’s mission was to dive to depths of 9,800 feet using a towed camera system called Argo to find and document the imploded remains of the Scorpion. The objective of the mission was to locate the submarine’s nuclear reactor and nuclear weapons and to gain evidence to help determine what led to her loss. After concluding his successful investigations of the Scorpion, Ballard used the final 12 days of his expedition to discover the RMS Titanic at a depth of 12,540 feet. The following year, while the public was enthralled and distracted by the discovery of the Titanic, Ballard returned on a second classified mission to the Thresher and Scorpion.
Visitors will view artifacts, materials and photographs from the U.S. Navy Archives, and see the submersible Alvin that dived to Titanic. They will also see a variety of Titanic related artifacts from the National Archives and movie memorabilia from 20th Century Fox.
According to Richmond News, Titanic:The Artifact Exhibition will be at the Lipont Centre in Richmond, Canada from 23 June 2018-11 Jan 2019. The newspaper reports that that Lipont was selected because of its spaciousness and convenient location. Toni McAfee, executive director of Lipont Centre, told the newspaper: “At Lipont Place the Titanic exhibition will find a natural home allowing both the venue and the exhibition to make their debut in Metro Vancouver,” says McAfee. “We look forward to welcoming all visitors, local and international, to the magnificent space and this world-class exhibition.”
According to a recent court filing, Premier Exhibitions has settled the largest general outstanding claim. The landlord of Premier’s former New York exhibition site asserted claims of $12.6 million in unpaid rent. Under the settlement, the former landlord will get $5.5 million and the other remaining claims are disallowed.
The mediator appointed in the Premier bankruptcy proceedings has filed a report with the court. The report states in part:
Significant progress was made in reaching agreement among a number of the parties on a path for exiting the Chapter 11 cases. However, certain of the parties are continuing their dialogue in an effort to reach closure on some important remaining issues. The parties have requested the mediator to maintain the confidentiality of the nature and extent of settlement until the finalization of agreements between some or all of the parties, particularly in light of the fact that equity securities of Premier Exhibitions, Inc. are publicly traded.