Texas court dismisses CEO of bankrupt U.S. tug and barge operator
Morton S. Bouchard, III, CEO of operator ATB Bouchard Transportation since 1992, was dismissed from his post by a Texas bankruptcy court.
Bouchard Transportation has faced a spate of civil lawsuits and federal enforcement action since the deadly explosion aboard the barge B. No. 255 in October 2017, and filed for bankruptcy protection in late 2020. The company is expected to come out of bankruptcy in April, opening up access to $ 30 million in debtor-in-possession financing (DIP ).
On February 24, Bouchard Transportation told the Texas court dealing with the case that it was in discussions with its lender DIP about accessing new emergency loan payments. The loans would cover operating expenses and payroll, and help meet “critical cash needs,” the company said.
At a status conference the next day, counsel for Bouchard Transport told the court that there were still disagreements with the lender over the terms of the emergency loan. The lawyer also noted that if Bouchard did not come to an agreement, the firm had uncertain prospects of meeting next week’s payroll. Judge David R. Jones interrupted the presentation to say he would be removing Morton Bouchard from his role as CEO, effective immediately.
In Bouchard’s place, the parties to the bankruptcy case appointed Matthew Ray of Portage Point Partners to take over as Head of Restructuring (CRO). The judge agreed, ordering Ray to preserve Bouchard Transportation for the benefit of his employees and to report any attempted obstruction. “If somebody threatens you, if somebody withholds information, I want to know that immediately … and there will be a hammer that no one has ever seen,” Judge Jones said.
Under new management, Bouchard Transport and its creditors are committed to working to preserve the value and jobs of the venerable firm ATB. “We’re all going to do whatever we can to get out of this with an operating company,” Jones said at a follow-up conference on Tuesday.