Gates-Controlled Optim Energy Files for Bankruptcy

Optim Energy LLC, controlled by billionaire Bill Gates’s investment firm, and its units filed for bankruptcy protection after the Texas power company’s owner barred them from borrowing more money.

Optim, also known as EnergyCo LLC, listed assets of more than $100 million and debt of more than $500 million in Chapter 11 papers filed today in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware. Optim’s owner, ECJV Holdings LLC, is owned by Cascade Investment LLC, an investment vehicle for Gates, the Microsoft Corp. co-founder and the world’s richest person.

“Cascade has denied the company’s request to permit further borrowings” under its pre-petition credit facility, Optim said in court papers.

Optim and its affiliates operate natural gas- and coal-fired power plants in Texas, where electricity prices have plunged along with gas prices. Energy Future Holdings Corp., the state’s biggest electricity provider, is struggling to restructure $45.6 billion in debt.

Optim plans to borrow as much as $115 million from Cascade to help fund operations as it restructures, according to court papers. The proposed financing allows for continued use of cash collateral.

Continue Operating

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Brendan Linehan Shannon in Wilmington today approved Optim’s request to borrow as much as $75 million on an interim basis. The loan will allow the business to continue operating.

“Absent access to liquidity, the debtors’ ability to operate and ultimately restructure as a going concern will be jeopardized,” Optim said in court papers.

The 30 largest creditors without collateral backing their claims are owed about $729 million, according to court documents. Wells Fargo Bank NA is listed as the largest, owed $712.5 million for a bank loan.

The case is Optim Energy LLC, 14-bk-10262, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

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