Court approves sale of ShoreTrips to Hornblower Group

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Court approves sale of ShoreTrips to Hornblower Group

A Wisconsin judge today approved the sale of ShoreTrips, the shuttered cruise excursion-seller, to the Hornblower Group for $1.8 million.The sale is e

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A Wisconsin judge today approved the sale of ShoreTrips, the shuttered cruise excursion-seller, to the Hornblower Group for $1.8 million.

The sale is enough to satisfy all of ShoreTrips secured creditors and pending administrative claims, court-appointed receiver Seth Dizard said, but “unfortunately is not enough to pay all the unsecured creditors in full.”

That means travelers who paid nearly $5 million for excursions that were canceled but not refunded by the Milwaukee-based company when the pandemic shut down global travel won’t get full refunds.

Nonetheless, Dizard said it is enough to pay them a “substantial percentage of their unsecured claims, which in receivership is considered a favorable outcome.”

Reached after the hearing, Dizard said it was too early to estimate what that percentage might be. The deadline for submitting claims originally was set for March 1, but the court extended that by a month given to give creditors around the globe a chance to respond.

During Tuesday’s hearing, held via Zoom,  Milwaukee County circuit court judge Timothy Witkowiak indicated a number of objections had been filed to the proposed sale. But travel advisor Jason Webb of Mosaic Travel Design in Valencia, Calif., was the only person who spoke against it, saying he was speaking on behalf of thousands of consumers.

“I am disappointed that all the big fish will get their money, and all the consumers will not,” he said.

He told the judge that all the other companies he has worked with during the pandemic have been able to provide full or partial refunds for canceled plans. And, like many advisors and travelers, he questioned where the money went.

“The money should have been held in a trust account,” he said. “I don’t understand how the agency could have had such overhead.”

Witkowiak said he understood Webb’s concerns but that the expected return to unsecured creditors will likely be higher than anything he has seen in 18 years on the bench.

Dizard, likewise, told Webb his concerns “do not fall on deaf ears” and said that once the sale is complete he will turn his attention to investigating the history of the business and “whether there are any other avenues of recovery.”

ShoreTrips founders Barry and Julie Karp did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment about the sale.

The company, which was one of the leading sellers of independent, commissionable cruise excursions, filed for protection from creditors in November in what is the Wisconsin state alternative to federal bankruptcy protection.

According to court filings, ShoreTrips had just $100,000 in cash, with debts exceeding $6 million. Liabilities include $4.76 million in customer deposits and payments, $974,324 in accounts payable and $345,000 in long-term debt.

Hornblower, the parent company of American Queen Steamboat Co., Victory Cruises and a number of day- and dinner-cruise companies, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how ShoreTrips will fit into its business plan.

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