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Kevyn Orr, Dan Gilbert take the stand in Detroit's bankruptcy trial

Oct 2, 2014

Credit Sam Beebe

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr will continue testifying today in Detroit’s bankruptcy trial.

Orr, a bankruptcy lawyer, took the stand for the first time Wednesday afternoon. He’s the main architect of Detroit’s bankruptcy restructuring plan, formally known as a plan of adjustment.

That plan is ultimately what’s on trial; Judge Steven Rhodes needs to approve it for the city to emerge from bankruptcy.

But while Orr is a crucial witness for the city, there was nothing particularly new or noteworthy about his initial testimony.

City lawyers had Orr lay out the background of Detroit’s poor financial and operational condition when he took over as emergency manager in March 2013  

Orr also started walking the court through key parts of the plan, like settlements reached with city bondholders and retirees in mediation.

Orr did say the city continues to try and reach a resolution with its last major holdout creditor, bond insurer FGIC – raising the possibility that a consensual resolution to the bankruptcy is still on the table.

Billionaire business mogul Dan Gilbert also took the stand Wednesday.

Gilbert is the CEO of a business empire that includes more than 100 companies, including Detroit-based Quicken Loans, that’s helped reshape the city’s downtown landscape.

He told the court he’s invested well over $1 billion in Detroit real estate. His real estate company now controls more than 60 buildings in or near downtown.

Recently, Gilbert headed the Detroit blight removal task force, whose subsequent report has helped shape the city’s blight-fighting strategy.

Gilbert praised Orr’s plan of adjustment, which includes $440 million for blight removal out of a total $1.4 billion meant to boost city services.

He also praised the “grand bargain,” a proposed deal to protect the Detroit Institute of Arts and minimize cuts to city pensioners.

Gilbert called the DIA “the single biggest culturally significant asset in Detroit.”

He cited the city's high crime rate, poor school system, unemployment and blighted neighborhoods as its major challenges going forward.