Change in leadership at Stephenville Airport Corporation board, as sale still pending

The Stephenville Airport Corporation's board will be looking for a new chairperson, following Trevor Murphy's stepping down this week. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada - image credit)
The Stephenville Airport Corporation's board will be looking for a new chairperson, following Trevor Murphy's stepping down this week. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada
Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada

As a deal to sell the Stephenville airport waits in the wings, the board overseeing the facility will be looking for a new chairperson.

Trevor Murphy, chair of the board that signed an agreement to sell the airport to Carl Dymond's company, the Greater N.L. Partnership, stepped down this week. He will remain on the board as a director.

In an email to CBC News on Friday morning, Murphy explained his decision.

"It's an extremely demanding position which offers little reward," he wrote. "I have a law practice that requires my full attention during the day and I often end up spending evenings working on airport matters, to the detriment of my personal life. It's a constant level of stress that wears on you and grinds you down."

Murphy says the position is purely volunteer, unlike boards of many other airports, which include remuneration.

"It breaks my heart a little to realize that I cannot devote the amount of time required to it," he wrote. "Our board did not want to accept my resignation as chair and so I agreed to stay on as a director."

Stephenville Mayor Tom Rose, who sits on the board as the town's ex-officio member, said he is pleased Murphy will continue as a board member.

"Trevor has done a phenomenal job for us as chair," he said. "He's got a legal background. And while they're going through the sale agreement with the Greater N.L. Partnership/Dymond Group, having a legal team on your board, it's very, very important."

The plan to sell the airport was announced in September 2021. It still hasn't closed.

Dymond said last month that an old insolvency proceeding involving the airport is holding up the final details of the sale.

According to Rose, that should be cleared up early in the new year — by January or February.

"Fourteen months into this deal, not strenuously long, but everybody wanted it to happen earlier than later," Rose said.

In his email to CBC News, Murphy said "a bankrupt entity cannot sell assets outside the normal course of business while subject to a creditor proposal" under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.

"In order to ensure that there were no liabilities left outstanding, we opted to have the creditors paid and seek the discharge," he said.

But their trustee ran into problems trying to track down creditors and find inspectors appointed as part of the process in 2005.

He said one had died but the other two were able to meet with the trustee last week. The minutes of that meeting will be sent to the federal Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy to determine whether a discharge can be granted.

"You can do things fast or you can do things right," Murphy wrote. "You can't do both."

Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada
Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada

Rose said he believes the delays in concluding the deal and the board changes were not related.

"I don't think so. I just think, you know, people sit on boards for a certain amount of duration," Rose said.

"Everybody wants this deal done. And, you know, every time we have a monthly meeting, you know, we're close.… The board can't do anything unless they get advice from their lawyers. No different than Carl Dymond can't do anything until he gets his advice from his lawyer."

Rose said board member William Macneil will be the acting chairperson.

Messages to all other board members, including Macneil, were not returned.

The Greater N.L. Partnership said it could not provide more details on the status of the transaction, citing the old insolvency proceedings involving the airport.

"Because GNLP is not the subject or client of the bankruptcy, our visibility into that process is somewhat limited," spokesperson Amy Felton said in an emailed statement.

Felton noted that the letter of full performance is being sent to the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy.

"We [are] happy it is moving along through the necessary process, and we will have updates once we've received a clearer timeline."

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