Ambassadors International filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Friday in a stunning reversal for whoever bought its stock during a huge two-day run-up this week.
In a stunning reversal for whoever bought the stock of Ambassadors International during a huge two-day run-up this week, the tiny Seattle-based parent of Windstar International Cruises filed for Chapter 11 protection Friday.
The stock “will likely have little, if any, value” once Ambassadors sells its assets in bankruptcy court, the company said late Friday in a separate regulatory filing.
Customers and employees of the cruise line, however, can expect business to go on as usual, CEO Hans Birkholz said in an interview. “Windstar Cruises will operate as it always has,” he said.
Windstar’s three luxury yachts sail mostly in the Mediterranean and Caribbean. Two of the ships carry 148 passengers each; its flagship Wind Surf, the world’s largest sailing yacht, carries 312 guests. The company employs 48 people in Seattle.
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Birkholz wouldn’t comment on the stock movements and said he has not been contacted by regulators concerning the unexplained action.
Heavy trading propelled the stock from $1.18 at the end of Tuesday to a close above $2.70 on Thursday. For a company with only 3.3 million shares issued, the two-day volume exceeding 4 million shares was high.
Trading in Ambassadors shares was halted Friday morning. Birkholz said the company’s directors asked for the halt “when we were certain of our actions and the process we were following.”
The company’s annual earnings report was due Thursday. Instead, after Ambassadors and a string of related companies sought protection in bankruptcy court in Delaware, the company said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that the delayed year-end report is expected to show a net loss of $24 million for 2010, down from $51.6 million in the previous year.
Ambassadors shares fell more than 83 percent in after-hours trading, to 53 cents.
The bankruptcy filing in Delaware listed debts of $87.3 million and assets of $86.4 million.
In a news release, the company said it has an agreement to sell most of its assets to investment firm Whippoorwill Associates, which is its largest stockholder and its primary secured creditor.
Whippoorwill is committing $10 million “to support ongoing operations” at Windstar while Ambassadors’ assets are sold in bankruptcy court either to Whippoorwill or a higher bidder.
Birkholz said the company had been exploring how to restructure its debts for a couple of years. The largest unsecured debts listed in the filing are $31.7 million to Wells Fargo Bank and nearly $13 million to the federal Maritime Administration for what’s described as a judgment debt.
For the nine months ended Sept. 30 of last year, Ambassadors reported a net loss of $587,000 on revenues of $19.8 million. The previous year it had revenue of $17.7 million for the same period, and it posted a $35 million loss largely due to accounting for a discontinued operation.
Seattle Times travel reporter Kristin Jackson contributed to this report.