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July 4th, 2017:

SH130 operator emerges from bankruptcy

Good for them.

The firm that oversees a stretch of highway with the country’s fastest speed limit says it is on better financial footing and under new ownership.

The SH 130 Concession Company, which operates a 41-mile stretch of the State Highway 130 toll road north of Mustang Ridge, announced Wednesday that it has exited bankruptcy a year after filing for it, while removing over a billion dollars in debt and attracting $260 million in new financing.

“SH 130 Concession Company has emerged from the Chapter 11 process as a much stronger company,” Andy Bailey, the company’s new CEO, said in a release.

[…]

Brian Cassidy, an Austin-based lawyer for Locke Lord, one of many firms that helped SH 130 navigate its bankruptcy, noted that the company kept the highway open while it restructured its debt. The $260 million in new financing comes in the form of a loan, which represents the restructured company’s only current direct debt, according to company spokeswoman Kate Miller Morton.

“One of the criticisms that you hear periodically about public-private partnerships is that they somehow put the public at risk of having to cover private sector obligations,” Cassidy said. “The fact is, if the agreements are structured correctly — and this is an example of one that was — then that risk to the public sector doesn’t really exist.”

See here and here for the background. I’m certainly glad that this all happened without the taxpayers getting stuck with the check, but none of this makes SH 130 a better idea. There’s nothing in the story to indicate whether usage of the road has increased or not. I’m not surprised that some entity was willing to make a bet on this thing, but let’s be clear, that’s what it is. It may never have any better odds of making a profit.

Yes, m’lord

I totally should bid on this.

All it takes to be a noble – to be called “m’Lord” or “m’Lady” – is money. And for Texans interested in owning a noble title, a silent auction in London holds an extra appeal. The title being auctioned has a loose connection to Gen. Sam Houston, arguably the most important figure in Texas history.

The Barony of Fingalton, Renfrewshire, Scotland, is said to have once belonged to Houston’s ancestors. Between June 27 and July 11, it’s being sold in a special silent auction.

Auctioneer Robert Smith, of Manorial Auctioneers Ltd., said that he expected the title to sell for at least $100,000.

It’s being sold, Smith said, by a French-speaking Swiss businessman who’s owned it since 1998.

Why would anyone want to pay $80,000 for nothing more than the right to call yourself a baron or baroness?

“People’s reasons vary,” Smith said. “There’s novelty involved, I suppose. I would think someone in Texas would have some warmth in regard to the general.”

Ernie Manouse, the Houston Public Media TV host, said that he bought a title of nobility nearly 20 years ago – for $29 or so.

That title, of highly questionable provenance, came with an ID card and a certificate suitable for framing.

It was, Manouse laughs, well worth the investment.

Manouse used the title years ago on a Lord & Taylor credit-card application, resulting in a credit card that read: “Sir Ernie Manouse.”

According to the sidebar, “Anyone wanting information or planning to bid should write to manorial@msgb.co.us or call auctioneer Robert Smith at &44-20-7582-1588.” I suppose there are better uses for a hundred grand, but these things don’t grow on trees, you know. Maybe I could crowdfund it. Who’d be in for a piece of the action with me?