By: Daniel Hart and Salene Mazur Kraemer
On September 11, 2015, the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy (Bankruptcy Case no. 15-16558) in the United States Bankruptcy Court for Western District of Pennsylvania, thus triggering an automatic stay or injunction pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 362 of the Bankruptcy Code that halts actions by creditors, with certain exceptions, to collect debts from the debtor who has declared bankruptcy. “Don’t Touch the Debtor”.
The museum intends to remain as a debtor-in-possession and continue operating during the pendency of the Chapter 11 Case. The museum’s mission is to enrich the lives of children by creating learning opportunities through play. It aims to achieve this mission by creating meaningful interactive play-based experiences within the museum and beyond its walls for all young children and their families. The museum has been nationally recognized for its lasting impact.
The museum filed for protection under Chapter 11 bankruptcy because it borrowed more money then it could pay back to renovate a new home in Fairmount Park’s Memorial Hall. Sources say the bankruptcy filing has two main objectives: (i) to shed the majority of the $60 million it owes holders of its debt, and (ii) to negotiate a deal whereby the museum turns over maintenance and repairs of Memorial Hall to the city, which owns it.
The museum owes about half of its debts to a group of bondholders. It formulated a plan to pay back these bondholders about $11.5 million of the $60 million debt. Filing for bankruptcy was a tactic used to get this bondholder group to agree to the plan. Also, the museum is launching a $10 million fund-raising rescue plan. In addition to paying off the debt, the museum intends to use the money to pay professional fees associated with the bankruptcy and to make some exhibit upgrades. It remains to be seen whether this strategy will solve the museum’s problems.