By Dietrich Knauth

New York: A U.S. bankruptcy judge on Friday approved Rite Aid‘s restructuring plan, allowing the pharmacy chain to cut its debt by $2 billion and turn over control to a group of lenders.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michael Kaplan approved Rite Aid’s bankruptcy plan at a court hearing in Trenton, New Jersey, saying that the restructuring had saved the company from having to shut down and liquidate operations.

Before Kaplan’s ruling, Rite Aid attorney Aparna Yenamandra told the judge that 28,000 jobs could be lost if the restructuring deal was not approved.

“If we can’t get it done now, we’re simply never going to get it done,” Yenamandra said.

Rite Aid filed for Chapter 11 in October 2023, after reporting $750 million in losses and $24 billion in revenue for the past fiscal year.

Rite Aid used its bankruptcy to close hundreds of stores, sell its pharmacy benefit company Elixir, and negotiate settlements with its lenders, drug distribution partner McKesson and other creditors.

Rite Aid’s restructuring will provide $47.5 million to junior creditors, including individuals and local governments that have sued the company allegedly contributing to the deadly U.S. opioid epidemic. Before it filed for bankruptcy, Rite Aid faced 1,600 opioid lawsuits, including one by the federal government alleging that the company ignored red flags when filling suspicious prescriptions for addictive opioid pain drugs.

Arik Preis, an attorney representing opioid creditors, said that 22,000 individuals who had filed personal injury opioid claims in the Rite Aid bankruptcy stood to receive between $250 and $500 each. The settlement payments, though modest, are a victory for opioid claimants because of Rite Aid’s high debt and dire financial troubles, Preis said.

“It’s pretty awful, but it could have been worse,” Preis said. “That’s the reality of this case.”

Rite Aid reached settlements with 16 of the 17 states where it operates, which resolved those states’ opioid claims. Kaplan overruled an objection by Maryland, saying that the state could not hold up Rite Aid’s bankruptcy so that it could continue an investigation into Rite Aid’s opioid sales.

Rite Aid, which had over 2,000 stores when it filed for bankruptcy in October, will emerge from bankruptcy with about 1,300 remaining locations.

The company plans to exit from bankruptcy in about a month, funded by $2.55 billion in financing provided by its lenders, Yenamandra said.

Rite Aid will use the time to fine tune some of the details in its bankruptcy deal, including a last-minute change spurred by the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday

ruling in the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy

, which sharply scaled back bankruptcy courts’ ability to stop lawsuits against people and organizations that did not file for bankruptcy.

To comply with that ruling, Rite Aid will work to ensure that its own deal’s

legal protections

for non-debtors, such as Rite Aid’s lenders and CEO, will have the consent of anyone who has a legal claim against those parties.

(Reporting by Dietrich Knauth Editing by Chris Reese, Leslie Adler, Alexia Garamfalvi and Diane Craft)

  • Published On Jun 29, 2024 at 06:05 PM IST

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