Coverage of the latest Canadian insolvency filings, court cases, news and more

PharmHouse Inc.

PharmHouse Inc., a licensed cannabis producer with an operating facility in Staples, Ontario, obtained protection under the CCAA on September 15, listing approximately $170.9 million in liabilities and $187.7 million in assets. Since August, the company has relied on $1.2 million in funding from Canopy Rivers Corporation (“Rivers”) to meet its immediate cash needs. In order to establish its operating facility, increase its cannabis production capabilities, and grow its business, the company has expended significant resources to date, including funds from equity and debt financing. As a result, the company has now exhausted its cash on hand, including its $90.0 million non-revolving credit facility. Absent urgent additional funding and a restructuring of its business, the company will face an immediate cessation of its operations. Although Rivers has advised that it is no longer willing to provide the company with funding on an unsecured basis, it will be providing DIP financing during the CCAA proceedings. EY was appointed monitor. Counsel is Bennett Jones for the company, BLG for the monitor, and Cassels Brock for Rivers.

Mountain Equipment Co-operative (MEC)

Mountain Equipment Co-operative (MEC), a Vancouver, British Columbia-based member-owned and directed retail consumer co-operative specializing in outdoor activity equipment and clothing, obtained protection under the CCAA on September 14, listing approximately $229.6 million in liabilities and $389.0 million in assets. MEC — which is a key Canadian retail partner with global outdoor brands including Patagonia, the North Face, Arc’teryx, Birkenstock, and Blundstone — currently operates 22 retail locations across Canada. While there was a considerable increase in online sales during March to September, MEC experienced a reduction in sales of $90 million compared to last year, and all MEC stores were closed as of March. The co-op is currently in the midst of a liquidity crisis, primarily due to difficult retail conditions which were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, it was necessary for MEC to refinance, downsize operations, conduct a review of strategic alternatives, or conduct a potential sale of the MEC business. MEC’s board of directors has unanimously approved a deal in which Kingswood Capital Management (“Kingswood”), a Los Angeles-based private investment firm, will acquire MEC’s assets. MEC’s transition from a co-operative structure to a subsidiary of Kingswood is required to ensure a stable future for the business. Alvarez & Marsal was appointed monitor. Counsel is Norton Rose Fulbright for MEC, Cassels Brock for the monitor, and Fasken for Kingswood.

Groupe Dynamite

Groupe Dynamite, a Montreal, Quebec-based fashion retailer that operates 322 retail stores under the brands Garage and Dynamite, obtained protection under the CCAA on September 8, listing approximately $357.0 million in liabilities and $192.0 million in assets. The company owes $149.4 million to a banking syndicate composed of National Bank of Canada, BMO, TD, and Fédération des caisses Desjardins du Québec. After record performances in 2019 and early 2020, the company was negatively affected by the ongoing pressures of COVID-19 store closures, social distancing measures, and closed borders resulting in a significant lack of tourism. Increases in digital sales since the beginning of the pandemic were not able to offset the massive impact of store closures, and the company’s overall sales dropped by 50% compared to the same period in 2019. The company has unsuccessfully tried to renegotiate its store leases in order to limit its losses. During these CCAA proceedings, a numbered company will be providing up to $20.0 million in interim financing. Deloitte was appointed monitor. Counsel is McCarthy Tétrault for the company and Dentons for the National Bank of Canada.

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Michael Rotsztain on the evolution of restructuring and insolvency work in Canada

“Study the past if you would define the future.” Confucius’ quote is a favourite of Michael Rotsztain, who has been practising insolvency and restructuring law for over 40 years. Beginning his career at the legendary insolvency firm of Harries Houser, where he had the good fortune of being mentored by a bankruptcy law dream team, Michael spent the major part of his career at a leading Bay Street firm and since 2014 has been the chair of GSNH’s five-lawyer Restructuring and Insolvency Group. Michael recounts how insolvencies and restructurings have evolved over his career and shares what he thinks are the next steps in the evolution.

Authority to Bar a Creditor From Voting & Litigation Funding as Interim Financing : The Supreme Court of Canada’s Ruling in Bluberi

Sylvain Rigaud, Arad Mojtahedi and Saam Pousht-Mashhad of Norton Rose Fulbright analyze the recently released written reasons in the Bluberi case, noting that the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court, penned by Chief Justice Wagner and Justice Moldaver, reverses the decision of the Québec Court of Appeal, reinstates the supervising judge’s order, and enshrines the recognition of an insolvency court’s wide discretion to, inter alia, approve a litigating funding agreement as interim financing, and to prevent a creditor from voting on a plan where it is found that said creditor is acting for an improper purpose.

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