Empire Land, an Ontario, Calif.-based land development company, filed for bankruptcy protection on April 25 in the Riverside Divisional Office of U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Central District of California.
"A severe tightening or loss of financing for the entitling and development of land and the resulting pressures that were placed on the debtors' cash flows" resulted in the action, according to a statement made by CFO Neil Miller in court documents.
Jim Previti, Sr. launched the development company after he sold Forecast Homes to Hovnanian Enterprises in 2002 and entered into a non-compete agreement preventing him from building entry-level product and capping the total number of homes he could build.
In 2006, the company had 7,500 units planned in its two largest communities, controlled 13,500 lots, and had another 5,000 lots in various stages of acquisition.
In January 2006, Previti transferred his home building assets to son Jim Previti Jr.'s Frontier Homes. Empire has several communities in California and Arizona. Plans for Seguoro Springs in Tucson, Ariz., included 2,500 homes, with roughly 25% designated as active adult.
Court documents list the estimated number of creditors between 50 and 99. An unsecured loan to Pomona First Federal Bank & Trust in the amount of $5.1 million tops the list of creditors. In addition, the company listed assets and debt of $100 million to $500 million in its filing and filed a motion asking for more time from the court to provide specific financial information.
According to the company's Web site, Empire Land is one of several companies held under the flagship name Empire Cos. Other entities include Empire Commercial, which oversees the acquisition, development, and management of commercial and multifamily properties.
In addition, Empire Residential Sales/Prestige Homes is the home building entity active in Southern California and Arizona. The company is developing five California communities in Brentwood, Oakley, Hesperia, Moreno Valley, and Tehachapi. In Arizona, the four active communities are located in the Flagstaff, Clarkdale, and Prescott Valley areas with homes and townhomes ranging from 1,100 to 3,200 square feet.
It's not clear what the implications will be to these other entities, and calls to the company were not immediately returned.