Home News & Insights Unlocking the Essentials: What is Receivership?
November 3, 2023
Unlocking the Essentials: What is Receivership?
By Gregory S. Milligan, CTP , Erik White, CIRA

What is receivership? Corporate receivership in the United States is a legal process that generally occurs when one or both of the following situations are present:

  • A financially troubled company is unable to meet its obligations to creditors and stakeholders, and/or
  • A dispute among shareholders is making effective management of the company impractical or impossible. 

In these scenarios, a court-appointed receiver takes control of the company’s assets, manages its operations, and works to maximize the value of those assets for the benefit of creditors and other stakeholders.

This blog will answer key questions about what is receivership—from the reasons for its initiation and the role of the receiver—to the impact it has on various stakeholders.

What is Receivership and Why Initiate?

Corporate receivership typically arises when a company is facing severe financial distress. There are several triggers for this, including:

  • Default on Debt Obligations: A company may default on its loan agreements, bonds, or other financial obligations. This may occur because of cash flow problems, declining revenues, or mismanagement of resources. 
  • Insolvency: When a company’s liabilities exceed its assets, it is considered insolvent. Insolvency can result from a variety of financial challenges, including economic downturns, competition, or excessive debt.
  • Court Orders: Creditors, including banks, bondholders, or suppliers, may petition the court for the appointment of a receiver when they believe their interests are at risk. For example, if they can demonstrate that the company is unable to meet its financial obligations or is engaged in fraud, improprieties, or other mismanagement.
  • Shareholder Disputes: Receivership can also be initiated when internal conflicts among shareholders or management arise that lead to the deterioration of the company’s financial health and stability.

The Role of the Receiver

The receiver is a crucial figure in the corporate receivership process. Their primary responsibilities include:

  • Taking Control of Assets: The receiver gains legal authority over the company’s assets, including its real estate, intellectual property, equipment, and financial accounts.
  • Managing Operations: The receiver may assume control of the company’s day-to-day operations to ensure its continued viability and value preservation.
  • Assessing and Liquidating Assets: The receiver evaluates the company’s assets to determine which should be sold to satisfy creditor claims. This may involve selling non-core businesses, real estate, or intellectual property.
  • Negotiating with Creditors: Receivers work with creditors to reach agreements on debt repayment, often through asset sales or restructuring. They aim to maximize the return to creditors while preserving as much of the company’s value as possible.
  • Reporting to the Court: The receiver must provide regular updates to the court regarding the company’s financial condition, asset sales, and other key developments.

Impact on Stakeholders

Receivership has significant ramifications for stakeholders involved with the troubled company, including:

  • Creditors: Receivership is an effective tool to protect the interests of creditors by ensuring that they are repaid to the greatest extent possible. Creditors may receive payments through asset sales or debt restructuring, but the final distribution ultimately depends on the financial condition of the company.
  • Management:  Upon appointment, the receiver displaces incumbent management which has no further legal authority to act on behalf of the company.  The receiver can make an independent assessment to determine which members of management, if any, should be retained to work under the direction and supervision of the receiver. 
  • Shareholders: Since creditors have priority in the distribution of assets, shareholders often receive nothing or only a fraction of their initial investments; however, the receiver is tasked with maximizing the return on assets and full recoveries for shareholders is not uncommon.
  • Employees: Receivership can be an effective tool to restructure or sell a business to retain employees’ job security and benefits; however, that is not always possible.
  • Customers and Suppliers: Corporate receivership can disrupt relationships with customers and suppliers. Suppliers may face unpaid invoices, while customers may experience interruptions in product or service delivery.
  • Competitors: Competitors can be affected by the entry of a troubled company’s assets into the market. Asset sales or restructuring can create opportunities for competitors to acquire valuable assets or expand their market share.

Equity Receivership

While there are numerous statutes which allow for receivership as a remedy, corporate receiverships are predominately equity receiverships. In an equity receivership, the court appoints a receiver to manage the business and assets of the company with the goal of preserving its value and possibly rehabilitating it. This type of receivership is more common when the company’s financial problems are seen as temporary and potentially resolvable, as well as when the receivership is sought to address shareholder disputes.

FEATURED CASE STUDY: Longstanding Shareholder Dispute Resolved Through Appointment of State Court Receiver 

The Receivership Process

The process of corporate receivership typically follows a series of steps:

  1. Petition for Receivership: A creditor, shareholder, or the company itself petitions the court for the appointment of a receiver. The court reviews the petition and relevant financial documents.
  2. Receiver Appointment: If the court finds sufficient grounds, it appoints a receiver, who is often an experienced attorney or insolvency professional.
  3. Initial Assessment: The receiver conducts an initial assessment of the company’s financial condition and operations. They may also take control of assets to prevent further deterioration.
  4. Operational Management: Depending on the type of receivership, the receiver may take over the management of the company’s operations to stabilize and maintain value.
  5. Asset Evaluation and Liquidation: The receiver identifies and evaluates the company’s assets and decides which should be sold to satisfy creditor claims. Asset sales are typically conducted through either public auctions or private negotiations.
  6. Creditor Negotiations: The receiver works with creditors to negotiate terms for repaying debts and distributing proceeds from asset sales.
  7. Court Oversight: Throughout the receivership process, the court maintains oversight to ensure that the receiver acts in the best interest of all stakeholders and to assist the receiver as needed in the enforcement of the receivership order.
  8. Distribution of Proceeds: After assets are liquidated and creditor claims are finalized, the proceeds are distributed to creditors in accordance with the court’s orders.
  9. Final Report and Termination: The receiver submits a final report to the court detailing the activities and outcomes of the receivership. The court then formally terminates the receivership.

The Challenges and Considerations of Receivership

Corporate receivership is a complex and often contentious process with challenges and considerations, including:

  • Conflicting Interests: Creditors may have divergent interests which may lead to disputes over  asset distribution.
  • Asset Valuation: Determining the fair market value of assets can be contentious and may require professional appraisals.
  • Employee and Supplier Relations: Maintaining relationships with employees and suppliers is crucial during the process to ensure continuity and value preservation.
  • Costs and Fees: While often cheaper and faster than bankruptcy or other proceedings, receiverships can still be costly. Professional services and legal fees are typically paid from the company’s assets which further reduces the available funds for creditors.
  • Complex Legal Framework: Receivership involves navigating a complex legal framework that can vary from state to state so it is essential to have an experienced receiver and legal counsel.

Concluding Thoughts

We hope this helped you answer your questions about: what is receivership — as we understand this is a complex subject. The appointment of an independent receiver can be a flexible tool to manage and resolve a variety of challenging business scenarios. Whether dealing with a partnership dispute or dissolution, distressed real estate, or going-concern sale, our team can help maximize value while avoiding bankruptcy or foreclosure proceedings.

Harney Partners understands that discipline, experience, and integrity are all critical elements when stakeholders select a fiduciary such as a receiver. When appointed as State or Federal Court Receiver, we quickly assess all the elements of the business landscape to gain a full understanding of the participants’ perspectives while navigating the legal process—and leveraging our experience to deliver superior results to stakeholders.

Our experience providing receivership services  delivers identifiable results and successful outcomes in a variety of complex business and real estate scenarios. We are proficient in customary financial and operational engagements, and we can manage and monetize a wide variety of disparate assets while operating within the legal confines of the specific situation.

Gregory S. Milligan, CTP
Executive Vice President

For more than 25 years, and with engagements involving onsite advisory to clients in more than 25 states and multiple foreign countries, Greg has maintained a practice surrounding troubled situations or situations that require fiduciary oversight. He joined Harney Partners in 1998 and opened the Austin office in 2001. Since that time, he has both led and collaborated on engagements with highly successful outcomes, meriting multiple peer-review awards from the Turnaround Management Association and the M&A Advisor.

Erik White, CIRA
Managing Director

Erik has amassed more than 14 years of experience in corporate finance, business restructuring, forensic consulting and asset management. He provides strategic advisory services, both financial and operational, to companies experiencing a complex transition.  From Fortune 500 to lower middle-market companies, Erik has the depth and breadth of knowledge and experience to support clients in distressed situations.