The Illinois bank TBF has foreclosed on a trucking business owned by Westfield Mayor Andy Cook and his son Ben Cook.
Through a mutual agreement filed in Hamilton Superior Court III Tradewinds Holding Co.’s headquarters at 1318 E. 236th St. will be auctioned Aug. 20 at a sheriff’s sale. In addition to that 5-acre property, the auction also will include 75 acres of adjacent undeveloped land at 1110 E. 236th St.
TBF forced the foreclosure and sheriff’s sale after acquiring Tradewinds’ debt from Fifth Third Bank in January 2014. The bank, though, essentially forgave up to $1.4 million in debt from Tradewinds and the Cooks, through the agreement.
Tradewinds was upside down on $2.7 million it owed on the property when TBF acquired the loans. According to an independent appraisal provided to the court, the property was valued at $1.3 million to $1.6 million and would be difficult to market and sell in the rural area. The land is far north of economic development in Hamilton County.
The bank agreed not to seek more than the auction amount from Tradewinds, or from Andy Cook and Ben Cook, who had provided personal guarantees on the debt.
In return, Tradewinds will drop potential court actions to stop or delay the foreclosure.
“This is a really good deal for everyone,” said Eric Douthit, an attorney with the Noblesville-based Church, Church, Hittle Antrim law firm who represents Tradewinds.
The Cooks referred questions to Douthit. Ben Cook has managed day-to-day operations at the company since Andy Cook was elected mayor. Andy Cook’s other son, Brian Cook, handles the company’s finances.
Douthit said Tradewinds will either lease the headquarters from the future owner of the property or move to another location the company owns on 181st Street in Westfield, where the trucking operations are based.
Douthit said the company plans to have a long-term future after posting its best earnings year in 2014. Business is up so far this year, he said.
“Hoosier Tradewinds plans to continue to operate,” Douthit said.
There’s no question the trucking company has been troubled for years, though. Founded in 2006, Tradewinds filed for bankruptcy after struggling to maintain business during the recession.
Tradewinds emerged from bankruptcy in November 2009 and consolidated its debt into the two loans from Fifth Third Bank.
Fifth Third Bank, though, sold the loans to TBF in January 2014, according to court documents. A month later, TBF informed Tradewinds it was in default for failing to provide properly audited financial documents.
TBF demanded the full amount of the loans. When Tradewinds failed to pay the money, the bank filed for foreclosure in March 2014. Tradewinds owed $3.17 million, including the loans and other expenses, according to the court filing.
Douthit said the two sides began negotiating on a mutually beneficial agreement even as TBF pursued the foreclosure.
Mark Owens, an attorney with Barnes Thornburg who represented both Fifth Third Bank and TBF in dealings with Tradewinds, did not immediately respond to questions.
TBF could keep the property if it fails to sell at auction. If that happens, Douthit said Tradewinds would seek to lease the property.
The property has been managed by a receiver since July 2014, at TBF’s request.
Politically well-connected Hamilton County businessman Terry Anker owns the receivership, called The Anker Receivership Group.
He could not immediately be reached. His group has filed frequent reports stating that Tradewinds is making timely payments and providing the necessary upkeep for the property as it heads to auction.
Anker is a co-owner of a group of the Current community newspapers in Hamilton County. He also heads The Legacy Fund, which raises money for community projects, including the Westfield Youth Assistance program started by Cook.
Anker also headed a political action committee formed by Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard to elect like-minded City Council candidates in 2011.
Douthit said Tradewinds has made timely payments since emerging from bankruptcy. He said all known debts have been resolved, either through paying them off, through continuing to make payments, or through companies going out of business.
County records also indicate Tradewinds owes roughly $1 million in unpaid taxes to the Internal Revenue Service. However, Douthit provided documentation that all of those liens were resolved and would be removed.
The Cooks formed Tradewinds Holding Co. in December 2010 to manage the finances of and pay the taxes of sister business entities Tradewinds Logistics and Hoosier Tradewinds. The IRS, county records show, continued to tax the two sister businesses for several years, though.
The Sheriff’s sale will begin at 10 a.m. Aug. 20 at the Sheriff’s Office. Written bids will be taken until noon, at which time a verbal auction will begin.