Why Companies Like Toys ‘R’ Us Love to Go Bust in Richmond, Va.

Second, the legal record in that courtroom district includes precedents favorable to firms, like making it easier to walk away from union contracts.

But perhaps one of the primary draws, according to personal bankruptcy lawyers and academics, is the hefty rates lawyers can charge there. The New York lawyer representing Playthings “R” Us, Kirkland & Ellis, informed the judge that its lawyers were charging just as much as $1,745 an hour. That is twenty five percent a lot more than the average highest rate in 10 of the largest bankruptcies this year, according an research by The New York Times.

“The numbers are stratospheric,” said Kevin Barrett, a attorney at the firm Bailey Glasser, who represented the State of West Virginia in two coal personal bankruptcy cases filed in Richmond.

Companies can seek bankruptcy relief in a courtroom district where they experience an affiliate – a loophole which allows them to look for the courtroom they think provides the best outcome.

For an affiliate to be incorporated in Virginia, it could use a “registered agent” with an area address, according to the state. For its bankruptcy filing, condition records show, Playthings “R” Us applied a Richmond affiliate marketer whose registered agent comes with an workplace in downtown Richmond.

Representatives for Kirkland & Ellis and Playthings “R” Us declined to comment for this article. So have a spokesman for the federal government bankruptcy courtroom in Richmond.

It’s not just the lawyers who stand to gain from the Playthings “R” Us personal bankruptcy. The bankers and various other pros who helped arrange $3.1 billion in new debt to keep carefully the company operating in bankruptcy will acquire $96 million in fees, according to a courtroom document filed by Playthings “R” Us.

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Executives at bankrupt firms typically agree to the high costs, bankruptcy authorities say, because they think that the price will have been worth it if the lawyers and bankers can save their organization. Kirkland & Ellis has a long history of getting companies again on the feet in bankruptcy.

The two judges in Richmond are likewise known for their expertise. “The judges understand the complexities of large corporate bankruptcies and may handle instances expeditiously,” said Dion Hayes, an area bankruptcy lawyer.

Still, the huge costs can eat in to the money that is left for small creditors – typically vendors, suppliers and pensioners.

In the Toys “R” Us case, a large number of suppliers of scooters, rubberized duckies and teething bands could lose millions in the bankruptcy.

Linda Parry Murphy, chief executive of Item Launchers, a distributor for several little toy suppliers, said her customers were owed about $1.2 million from Playthings “R” Us. She problems that they could recover as a little as $120,000.


“For many of these clients it was extremely devastating,” she said.

Nationally, professional costs for bankruptcies have already been increasing about 9.5 percent a year, about four times the rate of inflation, regarding to Lynn LoPucki, a bankruptcy professor at the University of California, LA.

Mr. LoPucki said the higher fees were fueled, partly, by court shopping. Lawyers advising troubled companies have a tendency to gravitate to courts that approve their costs, he said. Judges who balk at high costs see far fewer instances.

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“They become pariah courts,” Mr. LoPucki said.

Down the road, creditors in the Toys “R” Us bankruptcy can challenge how many hours the lawyers bill at the high rates. Another check up on the costs is the United States Trustee Program, which will help oversee the process and may object if the legal costs seems unreasonable.

The vast majority of companies – a lot more than 76 percent – now seek bankruptcy relief in a unique state from where they are based, Mr. LoPucki said.

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Delaware and NY – which have long been popular bankruptcy destinations – still see the lion’s show of the filings.

But Richmond is going to be gaining ground. In July, an article in The Virginia Lawyers Weekly declared the location a “personal bankruptcy haven” and quoted an area attorney who said the large legal costs charged there would offer judges in various other courts a “heart attack.”

Then in September, the courtroom landed the Toys “R” Us bankruptcy.

Toys “R” Us began in 1948 as a business that sold cribs and strollers from the ground floor of a house found in Washington, D.C.

It expanded in to the world’s leading toy retailer with about 2,000 shops and an advertising jingle – “I Don’t Want to Grow Up, I’m a Playthings ‘R’ Us Youngster” – that could stick in its clients’ heads like glue.

Seeing option in a consolidated toy industry, the private equity buyers Bain Capital and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and the real estate firm Vornado Realty Trust bought the business in 2005 and loaded it up with debt that today stands at $5.3 billion. It had been a burden that proved too much to overcome.

Playthings “R” Us has a large number of affiliates around the globe employing 64,000 persons. However when it came time to seek bankruptcy relief, the company opted for Richmond, where its lawyer, Kirkland & Ellis, had achievement in the past.

Regulations firm had represented Patriot Coal, a coal miner based in West Virginia that filed for bankruptcy twice in four years, most recently in Richmond in 2015.

In that case, the most successful mines visited another coal company backed by Patriot’s lenders, while the others were closed.

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Mr. Barrett, the attorney who represented the Express of West Virginia in that case, was stunned by the costs.

“I remember five lawyers in one appointment, and I joked that appointment cost $10,000,” he said.

This year, Kirkland done another bankruptcy case in Richmond – Gymboree, the children’s clothing retailer, based in San Francisco.

Like Playthings “R” Us, Gymboree was owned by private collateral and was weighed down by debt.

After emerging from bankruptcy in September, the business closed 350 of its stores across the country, but the retailer continues to be in business.

The Toys “R” Us bankruptcy case kicked off in September at a packed hearing. Kirkland & Ellis placed the stage by playing the Playthings “R” Us theme song for the judge.

The toy company, the attorney explained, had tried to carefully turn around its business. Nonetheless it couldn’t afford to sufficiently spruce up its shops and compete with merchants like Walmart and Amazon because it had billions of dollars with debt. He emphasized how Toys “R” Us possessed brought joy to numerous children and the way the bankruptcy method would help the business survive.

“We all have been Toys ‘R’ Us children,” he said.

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