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Court: Liquidate Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.

It’s been 16 months since Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., the former Riverside, Calif.-based RV icon that employed thousands, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. On Thursday (July 29), the U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved its plan to dissolve the rest of its assets, giving it permission to hand out whatever is left over in cash to the people it owes, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported.

“This does bring us to a bittersweet point in this company’s history,” said Craig Millet, Fleetwood’s attorney, to U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Meredith A. Jury.

Since the company filed for bankruptcy in March 2009, Fleetwood sold its name and RV division to a New York-based equity firm that moved operations to Decatur, Ind., and its housing division to Phoenix-based Cavco Industries. Plants were closed and sold as was the company’s military housing operations.

“The legacy does go on except with different owners,” Millet said.

The company moved east from Orange County in 1963 to settle into a Riverside headquarters.

As of March 2009, the company employed 609 workers in Southern California.

At its height, though, the company employed about 21,000 people nationwide, with a few thousand workers at the company’s Riverside headquarters and several Southern California plants.

A liquidating trustee will be left to wrap up what’s left of Fleetwood and the company still faces legal challenges.

Whatever is raised from a now-dissolved Fleetwood could start to be distributed to those who are owed money as soon as 15 days after the court’s order is entered.

It’s not known how much money Fleetwood will ultimately pay out to its creditors.

Administrative claims — essentially the costs to run the company after it filed for bankruptcy — as well as priority claims, tax or otherwise, are valued at several million dollars and set to be paid in full.

One of Fleetwood’s lenders, ISIS, is set to receive all of the $17.8 million it has claimed and about $1.7 million in funds from Bank of America will be paid back, according to the plan.

The company’s common shareholders won’t receive anything.

Gerry Billingsley said she was “devastated” when she was laid off from Fleetwood’s legal department in December 2008 after working there for more than 17 years.

Her husband, Mike, a Fleetwood employee for 25 years, was laid off in January.

She got her full severance and vacation benefits. He didn’t.

Owed more than $10,000, she said, Billingsley sat in the second row of the courtroom in Riverside among 30 other presumably former Fleetwood workers.

“I want it all,” she said of the severance owed her husband.

A settlement in a class-action suit on behalf of workers laid off in March and former employees claiming unpaid severance, vacation, benefits, etc., could bring up to $10,950 each depending on their claims, Millett said.

From there, what’s owed to whom and how much they’ll actually get is largely unknown.

Unsecured creditors have filed about $115 million to $195 million worth of general unsecured claims, but only $10 million to $28.7 million will likely be paid out, based on estimations.

Andy Griffiths, Fleetwood’s CFO, was one of three company officials in court Thursday who had remained to finish the manufacturer’s bankruptcy plan.

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