Negotiating Your Indebtedness: One Example

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January 4, 2011; Source: | In New London, Conn., the Sea Research Foundation that runs the Mystic Aquarium has just managed to negotiate away $15 million of the $34 million it owed Citibank and there may be an additional $5 million in forgiveness in the offing. The fact that there had been reduced attendance recently sparked the “restructuring”.

This debt restructuring paves the way for the Aquarium to embark on a new capital campaign for a new facility. How did they pull it off? Well, the details were not clear from this article but apparently they brought their friends to the table – the state, members of the Connecticut Congressional delegation, and United Technologies Corp. United Technologies Corporation and the chair of the Sea Research Foundation's board appear to be poised to make big donations to the new facility.

While this is clearly a well-placed organization with influential friends, it does bring to mind Clara Miller's advice in her article, The Four horsemen of the Nonprofit Apocolypse. The advice was that when you find yourself with unmanageable debt visit your bank earlier rather than later to see if some type of a renegotiation is possible.

If you have done this or if you do this in the future, please let us know how it turns out.—Ruth McCambridge

  • Peter Glankoff

    Thank you for acknowledging this admittedly remarkable settlement. The restructuring of the debt was really a multi-year process to address the lingering obligations incurred as the result of a $52 million facility expansion of Mystic Aquarium 13 years ago, not ‘reduced attendance recently’. Recent attendance and revenue at Mystic Aquarium, in fact, has been reasonably strong — strong enough to convince the lenders that the organization could survive and even thrive if relieved of a portion if its insupportable debt burden.