Landscaping company Turner Tree and Landscape has filed for bankruptcy protection, just months after being hit by several foreclosure suits and selling off some of its property holdings.
The 35-year-old company filed for Chapter 11 protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Tampa in early May. Documents filed with the court show that Turner Tree and Landscape owes millions of dollars to 1st Manatee Bank and other creditors.
Chapter 11 gives a debtor protection from its creditors for a limited time to allow that creditor to reorganize its business affairs and assets.
Owned solely by its president, Darrell Turner, the company has been struggling with debt for some time. Last September, Turner confirmed that his company faced three foreclosure lawsuits on land it owns.
This week, Turner said he filed for protection as a last resort. He primarily sought protection from 1st Manatee Bank. Court records show he owes the bank about $4.4 million on mortgages and a Small Business Administration loan. While under Chapter 11 protection, Turner Tree and Landscape is still operating.
The business’ payments on mortgages on land have been $50,000 a month. The business has stopped making those payments. Prior to filing Chapter 11, Turner had been working with the bank to get two of his properties sold to pay off his debt.
$4.4 million Amount Turner Tree and Landscape owes the bank
In April, he sold a 39-acre tree farm at 5005 37th St. E. in Palmetto to homebuilder Medallion Home for $850,000. Of that, $794,000 went to the bank.
Turner said he had also arranged to sell 83 acres in Palmetto to Medallion Home for $1.65 million. He said the deal failed when the bank asked for a higher selling price.
A new sales deal on the acreage with another buyer is in the works that is expected to get the bank a higher price, Turner said. Charles Conoley, a 1st Manatee loan officer who worked with Turner on one of his loans, said a sale will help Turner’s position.
“It would make a huge dent in what he owes the bank,” he said.
Conoley said the bank is not involved in the sales transaction.
In addition to what it owes 1st Manatee, Turner Tree and Landscape owes $2.6 million in unsecured debt and $13,000 in back tax remittances. Among Turner’s top 20 unsecured creditors are three local companies, Jackson Landscape Professionals of Lakewood Ranch, Irrigation Design Associates of Sarasota and TreeLeader of Parrish.
Turner said he intends to resolve the bankruptcy filing as soon as the latest land sale is complete and to start paying his other creditors.
“I don’t want anyone to lose a nickel or a dime,” he said.
Company assets listed in court documents are less than the debt. The company claims $1.5 million in accounts receivable, $2 million in machines, vehicles and equipment.
The court documents portray Turner Tree and Landscape as prolific in the landscaping market, doing work at golf courses, airports, office buildings, apartments and other commercial property. It employs 36 people. In 2012, Turner told the Herald his company employed 80 people.
I made it through the recession and I made it through the divorce. Preserving my employees’ jobs is very important to me.
Its total revenues last year were $7.3 million. So far this year, the documents show revenue of $2.4 million. Turner said his crews are currently involved in jobs that will bring about $8 million in revenue to the company.
The bankruptcy filing comes several years after Turner bought out his ex-wife’s share of the business. He said he won’t let his business fail now.
“I made it through the recession and I made it through the divorce,” he said. “Preserving my employees’ jobs is very important to me.”
Turner has already had a preliminary hearing with the bankruptcy court. The court has issued orders allowing the company to pay its employees. The company also has court permission to pay some creditors.
Not all of Turner’s business enterprises are subject to Chapter 11. Turner Tree Farm, a tree nursery he operates, is not part of the court filing.