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Newhall Land sighs in relief

• Judge lets company keep lights on during bankruptcy proceedings

Posted: June 12, 2008 1:26 a.m.
Updated: August 13, 2008 5:03 a.m.
 

Newhall Land officials are breathing a sigh of relief today now that an East Coast bankruptcy court has given its parent company permission to keep the lights on - at least until the end of the month.

"It's certainly another step in the right direction as we go through re-organization," Marlee Lauffer, spokeswoman for Newhall Land and Farming Company, told The Signal Wednesday.

On Sunday, the land development company that owns Newhall Land - LandSource Communities Development LLC - filed a voluntary petition for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware in Wilmington, listing 21 affiliated companies as its debtors.

Newhall Land, a wholly-owned subsidiary of LandSource, is one of those debtors.

Many of the 21 debtor companies are affiliated with Newhall Land and Farming, including the Tournament Players Club at Valencia and the Valencia Corporation.

On Tuesday, a bankruptcy court judge in Delaware gave LandSource permission to continue its day-to-day operations, as well as permission to access $35 million.

Early in the week, when asked if filing a Chapter 11 petition is similar to pausing a movie on TV, they said "yes." The company is still in business but no forward movement - planning, speculating, projecting - is taking place while court proceedings are ongoing, they explained.

It doesn't diminish the fact that Newhall Land holdings are significant.

Earlier this week, Lauffer told The Signal: "Our land assets enjoy the benefit of longterm value."

On June 30, LandSource lawyers are expected to return to bankruptcy court to continue discussion on DIP (debtor in possession) financing.

In the meantime, the fate of 21 companies hangs in the balance fueling speculation and rumor.

The Signal tried to get to the bottom of one claim made by a reliable sourse close to TPC Wednesday that golf celebrity Tiger Woods had reportedly expressed an interest in buying TPC and has been pursuing the prospect as recently as in the last two weeks.

LandSource representatives said they've heard nothing about Woods as it pertains to LandSource.

"I know nothing about that," Lauffer said when asked about the golf course. "TPC will continue to be the first rate golf course it has been.

"It will not experience any difference in the club's operations or the amenities it offers," she said.
Efforts to contact Woods' management company, IMG, through messages left at IMG officies in Los Angeles and in Cleveland Wednesday were not successful.

Once a course featured on the PGA Tour circuit, the TPC has gone through a few changes in the past couple of years.

In the last year, TPC General Manager Ron Horton left to pursue other opportunities, Lauffer said.
His replacement, current General Manager Mike Van Der Goes, started with the club this past year.

Reached Tuesday, Van Der Goes referred all comments about ownership of the club to Marlee Lauffer and Steve Zimmer, as did TPC Director of Sales Anthony Falasca.

LandSource, which plans and develops master-planned communities and transforms land into read-to-build home sites and commercial properties in Arizona, California, Florida, New Jersey, Nevada and Texas, had attempted for several months to reach agreement with its lenders to restructure its debt. LandSource defaulted on load payments due April 22.

What happens to its debts, its assets - including land owned by Newhall Land and specifically land earmarked for development as the 21,000-unit Newhall Ranch - and its future will be decided by a court in Delaware.

LandSource spokeswoman Tamara Taylor said no employees of LandSource have been laid off as a result of the company's debtor woes.

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