News Articles

BP Ledger, March 23, 2015

EDITOR’S NOTE: BP Ledger carries items for reader information each week from various Southern Baptist-related entities, and news releases of interest from other sources. The items are published as received.

Today’s BP Ledger contains items from:
North Greenville University
University of Mobile (2 items)
WORLD News Service

Pannell to head NGU as interim president
By NGU Communications

GREENVILLE, S.C. (North Greenville University) — North Greenville University’s board of trustees has named Randall Pannell as interim president.

The decision is in response to Jimmy Epting’s announcement of his sabbatical and retirement effective June 1.

Pannell came to the institution in 2011 when he was hired as vice president for academics.

“We want to continue offering quality education as well as protect the culture here during this interim period,” said Bill Tyler, a member of the interim leadership search committee. “We feel we can accomplish this with Dr. Pannell.”

Pannell has more than 30 years of teaching and leadership experience in higher education. Prior to coming to NGU, he served as associate dean of academics and associate professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. He has also served as assistant professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The NGU board will form a presidential search committee to begin a national search for the school’s eighth president.


UMobile VP Steve Lee remembered for humor, kindness

MOBILE, Ala. (University of Mobile) — Steve Lee, 64, vice president for business affairs and chief financial officer at the University of Mobile who oversaw the Christian school’s recent $7 million campus renovation, died Tuesday, March 17, following an extended illness.

University of Mobile President Mark Foley said Lee will be remembered for many things — a deep love for his family, an unwavering faith in God, an abundant sense of humor and even temperament in any situation, and a genuine interest in and care for everyone he met.

“Steve lived a life of purpose, making a difference,” Foley said. “The difference he made at the University of Mobile as vice president for business affairs is evident the moment you turn down Pollock-Altmayer Drive on campus and see the results of our recent campus renovation project. Steve’s conservative fiscal management enabled us to undertake a $7 million campus enhancement project, and he led the department charged with making it happen. He was so proud of this university, and of his part in helping it grow.

“Most of all, Steve was proud of the people he worked with, and he was genuinely loved by so many here at the university and beyond,” Foley added.

Brian Boyle, vice president for institutional advancement, described Lee as “a Southern gentleman.”

“He loved life. He loved a good meal. He loved a good football game. He loved his family. And he loved his work,” Boyle said.

Lee was recently honored by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, which awarded him the Meritorious Service Award during its annual meeting Dec. 6-9 in Nashville, TN.

The award was presented in recognition of Lee’s “untiring service on 19 committee visits, and as a member of the Accreditation Process Project and the Finance Subcommittee,” according to SACSCOC President Belle S. Wheelan. “We appreciate your support of the work of the Commission and all that you have contributed to ensuring quality among our accredited institutions.”

SACSCOC is the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states.

Following the presentation, Foley said Lee was widely recognized as one of the foremost financial resources for schools accredited by SACSCOC.

“I am delighted Steve Lee is being recognized in this way,” Foley said at the time. “It is among the highest honors of recognition that SACSCOC provides, and it is certainly fitting.”

Lee has served as vice president for business affairs and chief financial officer for the University of Mobile since 1995 and was a Certified Public Accountant. He previously was audit manager at Wilkins Miller CPA from 1988-1995 and was president and co-owner of Paulk Moving & Storage from 1974-1986.

Lee is survived by his wife Rhonda of Mobile; a son, Ryan Lee of Mobile; daughter Rachel Lee of Mobile.

Services were held Saturday, March 21. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be made to the Steve Lee Endowed Scholarship at the University of Mobile, 5735 College Parkway, Mobile, AL 36613.


University of Mobile launches marketplace ministry degree

MOBILE, Ala. (University of Mobile) — The University of Mobile is enrolling adult students for a new fully online degree program, the Bachelor of Science in Marketplace Ministry.

Applications are being accepted now for classes beginning June 1. The Marketplace Ministry degree is the first fully online college degree offered by the University of Mobile, a Baptist university founded in 1961 in Mobile, Alabama. More majors will be added beginning Fall 2015.

The Bachelor of Science in Marketplace Ministry includes courses in ministry, leadership and counseling. The degree prepares graduates for Christian leadership in ministry, social and secular work, faith-based and non-profit organizations, and careers as a church pastor, urban ministry leader, and corporate or industry chaplain, according to Danny Chancey, director of Adult and Professional Studies.

New students may enroll at various times throughout the year, since classes are offered in a flexible eight-week format designed to meet the scheduling needs of working adults, Chancey said. The program is for adults age 23 and older who are starting or continuing a college degree.

For information about UMobile’s online program, call an enrollment counselor at (855) 230-0804 or visit LearnOnline.UMobile.edu.

“For many adults, earning a college degree may open doors to advancing at their place of employment, or in changing careers. We have 22 years of experience in adult education, and that is a great benefit as we expand our program to offer more online degrees that are flexible, affordable and faith-based,” Chancey said.

For information about online degree programs for adults, call (855) 230-0804 or visit LearnOnline.UMobile.edu.


Family Christian Stores drops proposed bankruptcy plan
By Lynde Langdon

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WNS) — Family Christian Stores has withdrawn a proposal for a controversial bankruptcy plan criticized by debtors for ties between the seller and buyer that were too close for comfort.

The company gave no reason for the move, but it seems likely the Christian retailer will pursue another form of Chapter 11 restructuring. According to documents filed with a Michigan bankruptcy court in February, Family Christian Stores (FCS) owes $57 million to banks and another $40 million to publishers and vendors for inventory it bought on credit. Add in miscellaneous debts, including unpaid taxes and utility bills, and it has a total of about $107 million in liabilities.

Its suppliers, mostly Christian publishers, want the company to survive, but along with the company’s creditors, they raised concerns about how it planned to do so.

Under the original proposal, FCS wanted to pay about $28 million of the $57 million it owes to banks, with the rest of its debts, including those owed to publishers, remaining unsettled. It promised to keep all of its stores open and all of its workers employed. A spokesperson for FCS said the company would not comment on the bankruptcy while it was in progress.

FCS had proposed selling all its assets to a single buyer to raise money to pay off its creditors. That move, known in bankruptcy law as a Section 363 sale, or simply a “363,” is quicker than writing a traditional restructuring plan and is subject to less oversight from creditors, said Steve Ware, a professor at the University of Kansas School of Law who specializes in bankruptcy. In one of the most famous 363 sales in bankruptcy history, General Motors sold the bulk of its assets to a newly formed company in which the U.S. government was a majority stockholder.

FCS wanted to do something similar. Under the umbrella of its nonprofit organization, Family Christian Resource Centers, it formed a new company called FCS Acquisition that would have bought the stores and their assets for $28 million cash and assumed many of the stores’ leases. The total value of the sale would have been about $74 million, but only the $28 million cash would have been available to pay off creditors, and FCS would have walked away from the rest of its debt.

Ware said the fact the company wanted to buy itself should have given creditors pause. The arrangement raised the question of whether FCS would do its best to minimize creditors’ losses by getting a good price.

“The president of the debtor ought to be thinking, like a seller, ‘I want to get as high a price as possible,'” Ware said. “But if he is also the buyer, than he’s conflicted, and he won’t want the seller to get as high a price as possible.”

Adding to creditors’ concerns was the fact that the senior secured creditor — the one first in line to get paid after the sale — is backed by Richard Jackson, the president of the board of Family Christian Resource Centers. Attorneys at an initial bankruptcy hearing on Feb. 17 said FCS owes Jackson $23 million through FC Special Funding, Publisher’s Weekly reported.

Jennifer Hagle, a lawyer for Credit Suisse, the creditor in line for $34 million behind FC Special Funding, said at the Feb. 17 initial bankruptcy hearing that the case has a “significant issue of transparency,” according to local news site MLive.

U.S. bankruptcy attorney Michael Maggio agreed.

“In essence, at the moment, it would appear we’re only moving this case for the benefit of Mr. Jackson,” he said. Neither Hagle nor Maggio returned requests for interviews for this article. Jackson did not respond to an interview request made via Jackson Healthcare, the healthcare staffing company he founded and operates in Atlanta.

A review of records from bankruptcy court and the IRS showed the company’s sales have declined by about 25 percent since 2008. In 2013, its expenses exceeded its revenue by about $4.7 million. The company attributes the decline to the recession and a customer shift from shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. FCS argues it can maintain its important role in the market for Christian books and gifts if it can get some debt relief.

“The basic idea of business bankruptcy … is to distinguish a company that’s been going downhill and it’s going to keep going downhill, from a company that’s been going downhill but it has a good chance of rebounding,” Ware said. Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code allows a company to present a plan to its creditors to reorganize into a profitable business. Meanwhile, the courts protect the company’s assets from creditors until the plan is approved.

WORLD reached out to a sample of the companies to which FCS is in debt. Many did not want to comment on the bankruptcy. Those that did said they don’t want to see the company go out of business.

“Obviously, we are disappointed that we and all the other trade vendors will take a huge loss in this process,” said Mark Taylor, president of Tyndale House Publishers, in an email statement. “But we hope Family Christian can survive as a chain of stores. Our industry needs them. We hope other suppliers will recognize this.”

FCS owes Tyndale about $2.2 million.

Mark Kuyper, president of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, said the FCS bankruptcy puts publishers in competing positions as both creditors and suppliers.

“None of our publishers want to lose 260 outlets for Christian resources, particularly because those stores are focused on Christian retail and carry more breadth than a general market retailer might,” he said.

Publishers also have taken issue with the FCS plan to include inventory it holds on consignment in the bankruptcy sale. A group of publishers and other suppliers filed a lawsuit over the consignment inventory earlier this month.

Now that it’s withdrawn its initial bankruptcy proposal, FCS must go back to the drawing board. Though the details are still being hammered out, Kuyper said the bankruptcy will undoubtedly leave a long-lasting mark on the Christian publishing industry.

“You can see … when you look at the initial data in the filing that it’s a lot of money, and there’s no way to minimize that impact,” Kuyper said, adding later, “Regardless of how it ultimately goes, it will be a hardship for publishers. It is just a question of how much.”

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