Bankruptcy for World Trade Club

The defunct World Trade Club of San Francisco filed for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy last month and will hold a liquidation auction Jan. 7, according to the attorney for the bankruptcy trustee.

The club, founded in 1957 by local merchant Cyril Magnin and American President Lines CEO George Killion, closed its doors Oct. 29 amid financial troubles. The club’s membership dropped from 2,000 to 800 after it was forced by renovations to move from the San Francisco Ferry Building on the Embarcadero to a behind-the-building location at One Ferry Plaza that had an airier ambiance with less brass and wood fixtures than the old location, according to auctioneering firm Clars Auction Gallery.

It also suffered because social clubs without gym facilities are becoming less popular, club President Conrad Breece said. Other San Francisco social clubs have disputed that characterization.

The club owes slightly more than $2.7 million to creditors in secured and unsecured claims, according to the bankruptcy filings, and has assets of roughly $575,000, including accounts receivable and property. Its obligations range from a disputed $158,476.20 owed to City National Bank to $1,108.75 in trade debt owed to A Touch of Class Entertainment of San Jose and $50 in membership credit owed to the Hon. Richard Collier Sears of the New Zealand Consulate General.

“It seems like the end of an era to me,” said Ron Oliner, bankruptcy partner with Duane Morris in San Francisco, who represents the court-appointed bankruptcy trustee. “It is an institution here in the Financial District that has been here for so long.”

While the landlord, Ferry Plaza LP, is expected to be “far and away the largest creditor of this estate,” Oliner said, there is another serious claim against the club. Its defined benefit pension plan for its employees appears to be severely underfunded, he said. Oliner is known to local technology companies as the “the dot-com undertaker” for his work in the early 2000s economic bust.

He does not yet know how much money is owed the workers, or how many workers are involved.

“We have reason to believe that it could be on the magnitude of hundreds of thousands of dollars. We haven’t yet obtained all the documents,” Oliner said.

The Jan. 7 auction conducted by Clars (www.clars.com) will feature a collection of wines and spirits worth some $24,000, according to the bankruptcy filings. It will also feature several pieces of maritime art, including an oil painting by Gideon Jacques Denny, and several large ship models, including one of a Royal Viking Lines Cruise ship. Several other ship models were found to be on 30-year-old loans from other groups, and returned to their owners.

A 15-by-24-foot parquet dance floor will also be auctioned off.

“They paid $7,000. It came off the floor in 3-foot squares,” Clars President Redge Martin said. “We’re hoping to get $1,000 or $2,000.”

kwilliamson@examiner.com

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