GEORGETOWN — The president of the Georgetown Club has filed bankruptcy, leaving scores of employees without work, creditors on the hook for about $10 million, and perhaps two dozen brides without a place to host their receptions.
According to court documents filed by club owner Dr. Peter Wojtkun on Sept. 11, the filing for protection under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code included three legal entities listed as debtors: The Georgetown Golf Club Inc., New England Golf Partners Inc. and Georgetown Links LLC, all of which Wojtkun runs. The holdings concern the 18-hole golf club, its clubhouse and function facility at 258 Andover St. in Georgetown.
Yesterday, a phone call to Wojtkun, a dentist, at his practice in Andover was not returned.
The documents advise the court that the three debtor organizations started running into problems in early spring, when they experienced cash-flow problems due to things "beyond their control, including, among other things, the weather and the economy."
At the club yesterday, no one was answering phones in the function office or restaurant, or returning messages, and the voice mail at the golf professional's extension had a message it was "no longer in service."
Along with the 15 salaried and more than 100 hourly employees who are left unemployed, concern has been expressed all over town for the brides who booked the banquet halls at the clubhouse for their upcoming receptions.
The mother of one of those brides, Margaret Leavitt of Bradford, said they had already paid at least $5,000 to reserve the club for this Saturday.
Leavitt said she does not think they'll get that money back, but that on the bright side her daughter was able to find someplace else for the reception on such short notice.
Georgetown police Chief James Mulligan said he got a call yesterday morning from the mother of a bride who was supposed to have her wedding reception there on Oct. 4. "Unfortunately, we can't do anything to help people get their deposits back. It's a civil and not a criminal issue, so it's out of our jurisdiction. But it's just awful. She was understandably very upset."
In his petition to the court for protection from his creditors under Chapter 11, Wojtkun said the three debtors "collectively owe approximately $10 million to their creditors." Wojtkun added he disputes many of the claims made against his three corporations. Those claims include demands by about a dozen former Georgetown Club members who say he owes them a combined total of more than $180,000 in the form of non-returned initiation membership fee deposits they were supposed to be repaid upon leaving the club.
When filing bankruptcy, filers must prove their liabilities (debts) exceed their assets, making repayment impossible at the face value of debts. When filing for protection under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy codes, filers must provide a reorganization plan that the court and the creditors must approve, which proves they can run successfully after reorganization.
According to Wojtkun, he believes he can improve his cash flow and operations, by "among other things, rejecting several agreements, which are unprofitable."
According to the assessors office, the total appraised value of the golf club's properties is more than $10 million, however the town assesses the properties at about $6.4 million under Chapter 61B, a special appraisal exception granted to recreational facilities.
If bankruptcy under Chapter 11 isn't approved, Chapter 7 bankruptcy — a total liquidation of the assets to pay off creditors — may follow.
As a search of the Massachusetts Superior Court files of Essex County indicate, often those who started off working with Wojtkun ended up in court battles, either being sued by, or suing, him. Legal fees, court rulings and legal challenges account for a large number of the creditors listed in Wojtkun's bankruptcy documents. Aside from about $6.6 million owed to mortgage holders, on both first and second mortgages, almost $562,000 is listed owed to three law firms.
In addition to the more than $180,000 claimed owed them by former members, an $80,000 legal judgment against Wojtkun won years ago in lawsuits waged and won by Beverly Enos also is listed on his creditors list; although Wojtkun disputes it.
Also listed is money owed to vendors, such as accountants, a paving company and golf-related services.
The town itself stands to lose tens of thousands in back taxes and electric costs.
According to the information in the tax collector's office, this year's tax bill for the club was almost $65,500, of which Wojtkun still owes about $17,000. The town put a lien on the property for 2009's unpaid balance, but first quarter taxes for 2010 are past due for $16,677, with second quarter's taxes due Nov. 1 for another $16,369.
Also owed to the town is more than $29,000 to the Georgetown Electric Co.
Staff writer Paul Tennant contributed to this report.