Coal giant Murray Energy seeks bankruptcy protection

FILE - In this Aug. 20, 2007, file photo Robert Murray, founder and chairman of Cleveland-based Murray Energy Corp., arrives at a news conference at the entrance to the Crandall Canyon Mine, in northwest of Huntington, Utah. Ohio-based Murray Energy filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019. Former CEO Robert Murray said the move was necessary to access liquidity and best position the company for long-term success. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio — Robert D. Moore is taking the helm of a new company being formed to acquire Murray Energy Corporation’s assets as the largest underground coal producer in the United States navigates the bankruptcy process.

Moore, who for years has served Murray Energy as its executive vice president, CEO and CFO, will lead the operations of the newly formed Murray NewCo. and will become CEO of Murray Energy and Murray Energy Corp., roles previously held by company founder Robert E. Murray, who will continue serving as chairman of the board.

UtahAmerican Energy Inc., which is based out of Sandy, is managed by Murray Energy. Murray Energy is the nation’s largest underground coal mining operation. It produces about 76 million tons of coal annually and holds 3 billion tons of coal reserves in seven states and in Colombia, South America.

The reorganization of top leadership is part of Murray Energy Corp.’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, which came Tuesday. The company said the filing would allow it to access $350 million in new debtor-in-possession financing as it works with lenders to restructure.

According to the filing, the company’s primary creditors, which hold a stake in more than $1 billion of Murray’s $1.7 billion in debt, support formation of Murray NewCo. and its acquisition of Murray Energy’s assets through bankruptcy.

“We appreciate the support of our lenders for this process, many of whom have been invested with the company for a long time. I am confident the DIP (debtor-in-possession financing) facility provides the company with adequate liquidity to get payments to our valued trade partners and continue operating in the normal course of business without any anticipated impact to production levels,” Moore said.

Also Tuesday, to facilitate the filing, the company announced that Murray Energy and certain of its subsidiaries entered into a restructuring support agreement with a lender group holding more than 60% of the company’s approximately $1.7 billion in liabilities.

“Although a bankruptcy filing is not an easy decision, it became necessary to access liquidity and best position Murray Energy and its affiliates for the future of our employees and customers and our long term success,” Murray said in a news release.

When contacted by phone on Tuesday, Murray said neither he nor Moore would be making any additional statements at this time beyond the information that was released by the company.

Voluntary bankruptcy petitions also were filed for all of Murray’s main operating subsidiaries, including American Energy Corp., The Harrison County Coal Co., The Marion County Coal Co., The Marshall County Coal Co., The Monongalia County Coal Co., The Ohio County Coal Co., UtahAmerican Energy Inc., Murray South America Inc., The Muhlenberg County Coal Co. and The Western Kentucky Coal Co., which operate mining complexes in Ohio, West Virginia, Utah, Kentucky and Colombia.

According to the company, the restructuring agreement contemplates that substantially all of Murray Energy’s debt will be eliminated. The company said it has filed motions with the bankruptcy court, which when granted, will enable day-to-day operations to continue uninterrupted.

Under the restructuring agreement, Murray NewCo. will serve as a “stalking horse bidder” to acquire substantially all of Murray Energy’s assets by credit bidding its debt under a Chapter 11 plan, subject to an overbid process.

Murray’s corporate headquarters is located just west of St. Clairsville, Ohio while its American Energy Co. and Century Mine thermal coal site are situated near Beallsville, Ohio.

In total, Murray has 15 active mines with 12 underground longwall mining systems and 42 continuous mining units. The company also operates 10 coal transloading facilities and five mining and equipment factory and fabrication facilities.