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Arlington Hospitality, Inc. v. Arlington LF

September 18, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge James B. Zagel


I. Introduction

This case is on appeal to this Court for the second time. Arlington Hospitality ("Debtor") filed for bankruptcy and entered into a debtor-in-possession ("DIP") financing agreement with Arlington LF ("LF"). The Bankruptcy Court entered an Interim Order approving the DIP agreement. Under the Interim Order, Debtor was required to pay certain fees immediately, which it did not do. After approximately one month, LF refused to continue lending money to Debtor. After a trial, the Bankruptcy Courtfound that LF anticipatorily repudiated the agreement. LF appealed to this Court, which reversed and remanded, finding that Debtor repudiated the agreement shortly after the Interim Order was promulgated because Debtor neglected to pay the fees which were due. On remand, Debtor made several new arguments that LF in fact repudiated first. The Bankruptcy Court, considering itself bound by my prior ruling, found again for LF. The Bankruptcy Court also awarded LF a portion of certain fees and default interest for which LF had motioned. Debtor now appeals the Bankruptcy Court's ruling and LF cross-appeals the amount of the fee award. For the following reasons, I reverse the decision by the Bankruptcy Court on remand and find that in light of Debtor's new arguments, LF did in fact anticipatorily breach the agreement, and therefore LF is not entitled to any fees or default interest.

II. Standard of Review

I review the Bankruptcy Court's conclusions of law de novo and its factual findings for clear error. In re UNR Industries, Inc., 986 F.2d 207, 208 (7th Cir. 1993).

III. Statement of Relevant Facts

As this is the second time this case has reached my docket, I incorporate the following facts as stated in my first opinion:

This case arises because Debtor-a developer and operator of roadside hotels-faced a set of dire financial circumstances. In response to its predicament, Debtor prepared to file a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition. On a parallel track with its preparations to file for bankruptcy protection, Arlington also sought to find an entity that would provide debtor-in-possession ("DIP") financing.

It was in this context that Arlington commenced discussions and negotiations with LF. Within just a few short days, the parties negotiated an agreement whereby LF would provide post-petition financing for Arlington. The parties memorialized this agreement in a document entitled "Outline of Terms and Conditions for Total DIP Financing Facility" ("Term Sheet"). The Term Sheet provided for a "Total DIP Facility" of $11 million. The DIP facility consisted of three components: a revolving loan not to exceed $6 million ("Revolver"); a $1 million term loan to be made available after December 31, 2005; and a $4 million term loan to fund the purchases of five executory contracts of unimproved real estate. On the same day the Term Sheet was executed, Arlington filed its Chapter 11 petition.

Among the "first-day" motions Debtor filed was one pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 364(c) and (d) seeking authorization to obtain post-petition financing. Attached to the motion were an executed copy of the Term Sheet; a draft "Interim Order Authorizing Incurrence of Indebtedness" ("Interim Order"); and a spreadsheet (connected to the Interim Order) called "the Budget." Despite objections from some of Debtor's creditors, the bankruptcy court granted Arlington's motion and entered the Interim Order. The creditors' objections were based on the size of the fees, but in the Interim Order, the bankruptcy court found that:

[t]he terms of the DIP Financing, taken as a whole, are more favorable to the Debtors than those available from alternative sources. The terms of the DIP Financing have been negotiated in good faith and at arm's length between the Debtors and Lender, are fair and reasonable under the circumstances and are enforceable according to their terms.

Interim Order, at 3.

The Term Sheet and the Interim Order were similar in several material respects, but were by no means identical. Much of the dispute below involved which of these documents governed; the Interim Order made clear that it was to control. It stated both that Debtor could borrow money "on the terms and conditions contained in this Order;" and that "[a]ll post-petition advances made by Lender to the Debtors shall be... made in accordance with the terms of this Order." Interim Order, at 4; see also Memorandum Opinion Below at 15-20 (holding that the Interim Order was the operative document).

The Interim Order explained the terms of the $6 million Revolver. It listed $6 million as the "Initial Loan Amount." It also laid out the regular and default interest rates and all of the fees mentioned in the Term Sheet, including "Commitment Fee: $100,000, payable immediately" and "Total DIP Facility Funding Fee: $210,000.00[,] payable immediately." Interim Order at 4-5. In addition, the Interim Order provided that Arlington would pay to LF "all of the Lender's fees, costs and expenses incurred in these cases, including all reasonable attorneys' fees and expenses, upon invoice." Interim Order at 6.

The Interim Order also granted super-priority status under 11 U.S.C. § 364(c)(1) to Arlington's "Post-Petition Obligations," i.e., the loan principal, the interest, and the fees. Interim Order at 1, 5. The Interim Order also provided for "Events of Default." One of them was "[t]he failure of the Debtors to make any payment described in paragraph 5 of this Order." Interim Order at 6. Like the Term Sheet, the Interim Order granted LF a ten-day period under which Arlington could only negotiate the terms of an asset purchase agreement, or enter into such an agreement, with LF. Interim Order at 8.

One of the significant differences between the Term Sheet and the Interim Order is that the Term Sheet-unlike the Interim Order-had a "Use of Proceeds" provision. According to the Term Sheet, the financing could be used to "pay fees and expenses associated with this transaction." The Interim Order contained no such provision, and the Budget attached to the Interim Order indicated that the 'DIP Fees" were to be paid with separate funds-not drawn from the Revolver-that Arlington would have to secure on its own.

On September 7, days after the Interim Order took effect, Debtor began to utilize Revolver funds. LF wired $3,530,000 to LaSalle Bank, paying off Arlington's pre-petition loan from LaSalle in full. Despite the fact that the Interim Order called for certain of the fees to be paid "immediately," Arlington did not pay the various loan fees. Officials at Debtor ...

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