Court sets Jan. 28 as end of bidding

By Bob Buckel | Published Wednesday, December 19, 2012

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Wise Regional Health System will know on Jan. 28, 2013 how many – if any – other suitors are lining up to purchase the assets of North Texas Community Hospital in Bridgeport as it emerges from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

That’s the date U.S. District Bankruptcy Court in Fort Worth set last Tuesday as the close of bidding.

So far, according to Wise Regional CEO Steve Summers, five organizations have signed non-disclosure agreements to give them access to the Bridgeport hospital’s data. A flyer sent out nationally a few weeks ago by Navigant Capital Advisors gives an overview of the hospital, its location and equipment.

“There’s a lot of information out there,” Summers said. “The flyer was certainly designed to get interest in it – no doubt about that.” He noted that by signing the agreement, an entity gets access to an internet “drop-box” that has the hospital’s information in it.

“By signing that, they get a password and they get access to all the records we’ve looked at previously,” he said. “Everything’s out there.”

Summers said it is his understanding that to sign the non-disclosure agreement and get access to the data, the potential bidders had to agree to continue to operate NTCH as a hospital.

The court did leave open the possibility that the Jan. 28 date could “back up” to around Jan. 15 if NTCH becomes financially strapped, or if no more bidders are expected to come to the table, or there are no bidders.

“We filed an objection to the 28th date, to try to get it to be the 15th,” Summers said. “In deference to our objection, the judge set a few conditions in which it can be moved up to the 15th. We felt like he really had a good handle on things as far as the documentation goes, and an interest in being fair to everyone.”

Summers noted that the judge is the same one who handled the Texas Rangers bankruptcy in 2010, when the baseball team was sold from Hicks Sports Group to a group led by Nolan Ryan. Many of the issues, including the possibility of an auction, are similar in the NTCH bankruptcy, which was filed Nov. 8.

Wise Regional’s $20 million bid would give bondholders about 32 cents on the dollar. NTCH stipulates in its bankruptcy filing that any bidder must agree to continue to operate the hospital, which opened in August 2008 and has been in default on its bonded debt of $59,130,000 since May 2009.

Whether the bidding comes to an end Jan. 15 or 28, Wise Regional is preparing for the possibility that they will be operating another campus sometime next spring.

“We’re preparing our timeline of things that need to be done with the assumption that we will get the bid,” Summers said.

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