A startup firm designed to reinvigorate a small rust belt town has faced numerous setbacks — one of them now being a bankruptcy filing.
120 York LLC, based in York, Pennsylvania, filed a petition for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on April 27, 2021, according to court documents. 120 York owns the headquarters for United Fiber & Data (UFD), a telecommunications firm, and Think Loud Developments, a commercial real estate business and creative agency.
Chapter 11 bankruptcy is one of the most complex and expensive kinds of bankruptcy. It helps the debtor reorganize assets and liabilities, which is why it’s often referred to as reorganization bankruptcy.
According to the York Daily Record, William Hynes, the CEO of 120 York and Think Loud Developments, purchased 210 York Street, a 53,000-square-foot former factory and one of York’s many abandoned downtown offices, to headquarter Think Loud and UFD, another startup he founded with his friends and Think Loud majority owners, Chad Gracey, Chad Taylor, and Patrick Dahlheimer of the alternative rock bank Live.
The property, renamed the Think Loud building, features a recording studio, rehearsal spaces, smaller tenant spaces, and a rooftop entertainment deck. York residents and government officials alike hoped the renovation would bring jobs and business back to the area. The York Daily Record reported that state, county, and city officials poured grant funds and tax breaks into the project.
Think Loud project faced near-constant legal drama
In 2014, Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett’s administration gave the project a $5 million grant through the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. The state has also reportedly reimbursed more than $3.38 million of the property’s construction costs.
The York County Board of Commissioners gave the property a 10-year tax break, and City Council approved a measure that closed York Street to the public. United Fiber & Data executives claimed the startup alone would generate $2 billion in state tax revenue over 30 years and create over 300 jobs.
These gains have yet to come to fruition. On April 20, 2021, a week before 120 York filed for bankruptcy, the York County Tax Claim Bureau filed a tax claim for more than $95,171.92.
In July 2020, lawyers for Kinsley Construction — the contractor that provided construction and design services for the Think Loud building — alleged that, seven years earlier, 120 York LLC had defaulted on a $15.91 million promissory note given to Kinsley for construction work on the building.
In court documents, Kinsley stated that if 120 York did not pay the note within 30 days, the construction firm could demand the total balance plus interest due immediately.
120 York never made a payment, and in September 2020, a judge awarded Kinsley nearly $14 million against the company.
But the once-promising startup’s legal drama would only get worse from there.
A month after Kinsley obtained its judgment, Louis Appell III and the Power Mill Foundation, (Appell’s non-profit based in York), joined United Fiber & Data to sue Hynes, along with Taylor, Think Loud Developments, Think Loud Investments, 120 York, BKS Capital, and YRK LLC.
Appell III is the son of Louis Appell Jr., the late York philanthropist, who provided 120 York a $5 million line of credit to refurbish the Think Loud building, according to the lawsuit.
Lawsuit allegations include that:
- Hynes transferred the grant money from Pennsylvania for renovations to the Think Loud Building to his personal account.
- Hynes used millions of dollars from UFD to fund personal activities and interests, such as sponsoring an auto racing team, promoting his own auto racing, and donating $30,000 to Geraldo Rivera’s charity.
- Hynes also used UFD funds to pay a reputation-management firm to repair his personal public standing after he was arrested in 2019 for fraud, stalking, burglary, and assault.
- Hynes doctored invoices to hide his misuse of funds.
By the time Appell’s lawyers filed the lawsuit, Hynes was no longer the CEO of UFD. In November 2019, the Pennsylvania State Police arrested Hynes for stalking his ex-girlfriend, a former UFD employee, and violating the protective order she had filed against him by putting a GPS monitor in her car. After his arrest, Hynes stepped down as the company’s CEO.
The lawsuit and stalking trial are ongoing. Meanwhile, the York Daily Record reports that the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has moved to cancel UFD’s certificate to provide services in the commonwealth.
An annual report the startup filed with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities in 2019 shows that UFD has yet to make a profit and has a nationwide net operating loss of $11.76 million.
120 York’s bankruptcy petition lists 15 creditors, including Kone Elevators, Verizon, and Comcast, with unsecured claims. Mechanical contractor Walton & Company has the highest claim at $16,917. The petition lists 120 York’s liabilities at between $10 million and $50 million.
According to the bankruptcy petition, Hynes remains CEO of 120 York and Think Loud Developments. Kinsley Construction has asked a judge to put up the Think Loud building, the property Hynes championed years before, for sheriff’s sale.
The judge’s decision is currently on hold.