Detroit is "the Olympics of restructuring" says city's new emergency manager

Mar 14, 2013

It's the largest state takeover of a city in U.S. history.

The city of Detroit will have a state-appointed emergency manager running things.

Kevyn Orr, a Washington D.C. lawyer and restructuring expert, will start his job on March 25th.

With $14.9 billion in long-term liabilities and a $327 million near term deficit, Orr will have his work cut out for him.

We updated this post as the news broke today.

Scroll down and read up for a look at how things unfolded.

Update 3:23 p.m. - An interview with the Detroit News

The Detroit News' Nolan Finley interviewed Kevyn Orr prior to this afternoon's announcement.

In his press conference, Orr outlined why he took the job, which we posted below.

Finley also asked this question. Here's how he answered:

I'm a restructuring professional and have been for the past 30 years and I've been privileged … to work on some significant restructuring cases. So when I was originally presented with this opportunity, it attracted me for professional reasons. This is going to be quite difficult and involved, but also quite satisfying to be able to do it appropriately. It's the Olympics of restructuring, if you will, and who doesn't want to play at the highest level?

The second issue was my wife. She has been, unfortunately, forced to suffer me walking around the house Sunday mornings after listening to the talk shows and reading editorial pages, gruffing and griping about the state of affairs. She finally said, "Look, this is your call to action. Either put up or shut up."

3:15 p.m. - It's official.

The state's Emergency Loan Board voted to approve Kevyn Orr as Detroit's emergency manager.

MPRN's Rick Pluta tweets:

Orr told the Emergency Loan Board he will arrive in Detroit on March 25th to start the job.

"I will go at it with full force," Orr said.

State Treasurer Andy Dillon told Orr "as an average citizen of this state, I want to thank you for your willingness to serve in this capacity."

2:50 p.m. - The press conference ends, vote comes next

The state's Emergency Loan Board will vote on Gov. Snyder's choice for Detroit emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, at 3 p.m.

Orr said in his role as emergency manager he plans to be as transparent as possible.

In a statement that is likely to resonate in the heavily Democratic city of Detroit, Orr said he has been a Democrat all his life and has worked on the Kerry and Obama campaigns.

Mayor Bing said he thinks the citizens don't really care who is in charge of the city.

"I don't think they care who the mayor is or who the emergency manager is, at this point. They want things fixed," said Bing.

2:37 p.m. - Why in the world would he want this job?

When asked why he took the job, Orr said he has many close ties to Michigan - to the University of Michigan, he said he vacationed in Leelanau County, and he said learned to ski on Mt. Brighton.

Aside from his ties to the state, Orr said he looks forward to the challenge.

"If we can do this, I will have participated in one of the greatest turnarounds in the history of the country," said Orr.

When asked if there are any conflicts of interest in him taking this position because his law firm has some financial interests tied to the city, Orr said he is resigning from his law firm effective tomorrow.

He said he will have no financial ties to the firm. He says he's not required to do so, but he wants "to remove any appearance of impropriety."

Mayor Bing said he looks forward to having a "teammate" in turning around the city.

"Time is not our ally," Bing said. "We've wasted a lot of time. Anything we can do to speed up the process I'm in favor of doing. There are things we can do near term to help the citizens of Detroit."

2:22 p.m. - "The Olympics of financial restructuring"

Calling it a 'call to action,' Gov. Snyder's choice for a Detroit emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, called Detroit the "Olympics of financial restructuring."

Orr said Gov. Snyder convinced him to take the job telling him, "it's the right thing to do, and it's the right time to do it."

Orr said when he met with Mayor Bing, he found a willing partner.

"When the mayor said he would be part of the solution, I was compelled to undertake the challenge," said Orr.

"This is a beautiful city that gave me a start," he said.

Orr said he looks forward to undertaking the job.

His position will be official when the state's Emergency Loan Board board votes at 3 p.m. today.

2:10 p.m. - Kevyn Orr named as Snyder's choice for EM

Gov. Snyder has announced Kevyn Orr as his choice for emergency manager of Detroit.

Orr is a partner at the Washington D.C. law firm Jones Day and a graduate of the University of Michigan (J.D. 1983, B.A. in Political Science 1979).

More on Orr from Jones Day:

Kevyn Orr has practiced in the areas of business restructuring, financial institution regulation, and commercial litigation since 1984. Throughout his career he has demonstrated the ability to handle all aspects of complex and precedent-setting matters and has successfully tried numerous jury trials to verdict. Kevyn also has served as both the chief government legal officer of a failed financial institution and a special master to oversee the operations of a real estate development firm. He also has assisted clients with government RFPs and inspector general audits.

2:00 p.m. The Press Conference.

You can watch the press conference with us on the state's "Detroit Can't Wait" page.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek is at the press conference. She reports security is tight, but protestors seem minimal at this point.

1:47 p.m. - Protestors gather

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reports protestors are starting to gather outside of Cadillac Place to oppose the appointment of an emergency manager in Detroit.

Sarah reports:

A few dozen people are protesting Outside Cadillac Place, where Gov.
Rick Snyder is scheduled to make an announcement about an emergency
manager for Detroit at 2 PM.

Some are carrying signs that say "fighting for democracy" and the
crowd is chanting "free Detroit, no consent!"

Several in the crowd are union members who say the goal of an
emergency manager is to bust unions.

There had been concerns expressed ahead of today's announcement by
some who warned there could be violent protests. But so far the crowd
is peaceful and relatively small.

1:38 p.m. - Didn't voters reject the idea of an emergency manager?

Stateside's Cynthia Canty asked Eric Scorsone, an economist from MSU, how this new emergency manager law differs from the one rejected by voters.

Here's part of their interview that took place today:

You can listen to their full interview today at 3 p.m. We'll also have the recorded interview up shortly after the program airs.

1:17 p.m. - Detroit's Mayor calls for teamwork

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is not planning to fight the appointment of an emergency manager.

Mayor Bing, along with Gov. Snyder, have made a pleas for Detroit leaders to work with the incoming, state-appointed manager. He sent this note earlier this week:

An emergency manager can't come in here and run this city without the help and support of teammates, I'll be a teammate. My executive staff will be a teammate. What we need to figure out is not fighting the person but how do we get along to make wins for the citizens in the city of Detroit.

At a hearing on Monday, Detroit City Council expressed a different opinion.

Acting corporation council for the Detroit City Council Edward Keelan said the appointment of an emergency manager will only provoke more lawsuits.

Gov. Snyder will appoint the emergency manager today under the state's old 'emergency financial manager' law (Public Act 72).

Voters repealed the state's stronger emergency manager law (Public Act 4) last November.

The Legislature quickly acted and passed a replacement law (Public Act 436). That law goes into effect on March 28th.

Much of the power emergency managers once had in the state, including the ability to amend and change union contracts and strip local officials of their power, will be reinstated once that law goes into effect.

One of the differences with the new law is that the Detroit City Council could vote to remove the emergency manager after 18 months goes by.

11:12 a.m. - Detroit is waiting for 2 p.m.

Snyder is widely expected to name an emergency manager to run the city.

We will update this post with new information as it comes in.

The Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News have reported Kevyn Orr has been chosen for the position.

The Governor's office would not confirm these reports.

Orr is partner in the Jones Day law firm in Washington D.C. and a University of Michigan graduate (J.D. 1983, B.A. in Political Science 1979). He has consulted in the bankruptcy reorganization of Chrysler and the Jones Day law firm has worked on large restructuring efforts.

With the city's long term liabilities pegged at $14.9 billion and near term deficits at more than $300 million, all agree the city is in need of a large scale restructuring effort.

Who decides how that should happen is where agreement in Detroit falls apart.

On March 5th, Gov. Snyder announced the city is in a 'financial emergency' saying "there are 700,000 people in the city of Detroit that are suffering."

You can watch Gov. Snyder announcing his determination that the city needs emergency help here: