Livermore inventory under the hammer
The wind-down of Kenetech Windpower took a large step forward last month with the first public auction of the company's property. Kenetech, which filed for bankruptcy protection a year ago, hoped to earn between $1 million and $2 million from the sale of surplus equipment. The company still employs some 170-200 maintenance workers, accountants and supervisors, down from a workforce that once totalled some 900.
About 400 people attended the auction on April 10 at the company's well known head office and warehouse on Preston Avenue in Livermore. Items for sale included hundreds of computers, from work-stations to Apple laptops, furniture ranging from rosewood desks to bookcases and ordinary chairs, as well as warehouse machinery, trucks and cars.
Two drills and fan
"It's kind of fun to go to an auction," Lee Jensen, whose company makes cases for industrial computers, told the Oakland Tribune newspaper shortly before auctioneers Adam Alexander and Mark Weitz of Great American Auctioneers & Liquidators started rattling off bids from the podium. "But it's unfortunate for those who are having their stuff auctioned offÉ Our business is close by so I just came to see what we might be interested in," he commented before buying two drills and a fan.
The cash raised at the auction was deposited shortly afterwards with Kenetech as "debtor in possession," but the sum of the amount raised was not immediately available from either Kenetech or the US Bankruptcy Court in Oakland.
A second auction -- but this time of unassembled wind turbines and parts -- will most likely be held in several months time, Doug Berman, vice-president of the auctioneers' technology group said afterwards. He expects international interest in the event. Companies from the Philippines, Thailand and China are already inquiring about the turbines.
The go-ahead for the second auction must be given by the Kenetech creditors' committee. The auction could indeed be sizeable. Already, another operator of wind turbines in the Altamont has inquired about participating in the auction along with Kenetech.
Alan Pedlar, the bankruptcy attorney representing Kenetech, estimated shortly after the auction that over past months Kenetech has accumulated some $20 million in assets since its filing for bankruptcy last May and may earn another $20 million from selling miscellaneous assets. When it sought court protection, Kenetech had $196 million assets and $274 in liabilities. Claims from debtors filed since May 1996 total $1 billion, but Pedlar says that figure is very inflated and includes some duplicate claims. Actual claims, he says, are closer to $100 million.