In re: Great Lakes Quick Lube, LP
7th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals
No. 15-2093 Decided Mar. 11, 2016
In this case the value of unexpired commercial leases was put to the test. When a popular auto-repair/oil-change franchise went into Chapter 11, its unsecured creditors sought to recoup the value of 2 unexpired leases it relinquished just before filing. The 7th Circuit analyzed the issue under 2 provisions of the Bankruptcy Code and ultimately decided that the terminated leases were an asset of the Estate and that letting them go was tantamount to an improper pre-filing transfer.
Great Lakes Quick Lube LP (Great Lakes) owned oil change and automotive repair stores throughout the Midwest. Its business model included selling stores to shareholders and leasing them back. One such arrangement was made with T.D. Investments I, LLP (TDI), which leased 2 stores to Great Lakes. But in 2012, under mounting financial pressure, Great Lakes terminated its TDI leases.
Adversary Case in Bankruptcy
Ultimately, Great Lakes sought Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection less than 60 days after terminating the TDI leases. The Estate’s Unsecured Creditors’ Committee filed an Adversary action contending that those lease terminations amounted to either a preferential or fraudulent transfer by Great Lakes to TDI, and that the value of those leases should be disgorged to the Bankruptcy Estate. The Bankruptcy Court denied relief to the Unsecured Creditors’ Committee because, in its analysis, termination of the TDI leases was not a “transfer” at all – much less a preferential or fraudulent transfer.