Oyster venture pushed toward Ch. 7

Richmond Federal Courthouse

Richmond Federal Courthouse

A group of disgruntled investors, which includes at least two Richmonders, is trying to force a Middle Peninsula oyster venture into bankruptcy.

An involuntary bankruptcy petition was filed last week in an effort to push Oyster Company of Virginia LLC into Chapter 7 liquidation.

The local investors behind the initial filing are Bill and Patricia Loughridge. Bill Loughridge is president of local construction company Loughridge & Co.

Loughridge also filed on behalf on Half Shell Partners LLC, which shares its address with Loughridge & Co. at 5711 Staples Mill Road.

The other petitioners are Chandler S. Weigand, and Jeffrey and Eleanor Orndorff, all of Maryland.

They were all early investors in the company, which was founded in 2010 and keeps its headquarters at 838 Long Point Lane in Topping, Virginia, about 60 miles east of Richmond on the edge of an inlet that opens into the Rappahannock River.

In the initial bankruptcy filings, the investors claim they haven’t been paid for the contractual return on their investment of $122,500. Of that, Half Shell Partners claims it is owed $67,500, while the individuals each cite claims of $15,000.

Involuntary bankruptcy filings are typically made by creditors of a company to have a judge determine whether bankruptcy is warranted. If the judge agrees with an initial petition, a trustee would likely then be appointed to determine the state of the company’s assets, preserve them and potentially liquidate them to dredge up funds for creditors.

OCVA has at least two sides to its business: selling membership to its oyster cage co-op program dubbed “Oysters for Life,” and creating a program for trading tax credits earned from nutrient remediation by putting spent oysters shells back into the water. The Oysters for Life program sells memberships to sponsor an oyster cage, by which members then can receive two dozen oysters a year for life, while at the same time supporting an oyster farmer by helping fund the purchase of the cage.

In an emailed statement in response to questions about the involuntary filing, OCVA founder Tolar Nolley said the company is “in the process of an equity conversion and expanding its product and services under our private sector business model.”

“We have deferred some interest payments for the benefit of our watermen; product/service development; and investors.

“These few investors who partitioned for their outstanding interest payments using this ‘public’ mechanism is unfortunate but will be resolved. We appreciated their initial support.”

Nolley said in the email there are over 1,000 Oysters for Life supporters in 44 states.

Citing some of the company’s accomplishments, Nolley said OCVA has purchased real estate assets, more than 16 million oyster seeds and provided thousands of cages and equipment “for this important aquaculture mission.”

“We look forward to our continued positive impact and success for all the right reasons,” Nolley concluded.

Richmond attorney Rachel Greenleaf of Hirschler Fleischer is representing the Loughridges and Half Shell Partners. Greenleaf said last week her clients have no comment on the initial filing.

Weigand and the Orndorffs did not name an attorney in the initial filing.

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