Laurentian president to step down as university nears end of insolvency proceedings
Laurentian creditors to vote on new agreement Sept. 14
Laurentian University president Robert Haché will step down once the school emerges from the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) process, the Sudbury, Ont., school says.
Marie-Josée Berger, Laurentian's provost, will also step down at that time.
"An interim president and provost will be appointed, and the formal search process to identify a permanent president, in consultation with the Laurentian community, will be commenced," Laurentian said in a news release published Thursday evening.
Tom Fenske, president of the Laurentian University Staff Union, says the news isn't unexpected.
"I don't think it's a surprise. I think everybody you know, everybody on the planet was waiting for that shoe to drop," said Fenske.
Fenske and other representatives with the university's faculty union have long called on Haché to step down, following the school's insolvency announced in February 2021 that ended 69 programs and saw nearly 200 staff and faculty members lose their jobs.
Under the CCAA proceedings, Laurentian was allowed to operate while dealing with its financial issues.
On Thursday, Laurentian also announced it filed its plan of arrangement with the Superior Court of Justice.
The plan is the culmination of the 18-month CCAA proceedings, and represents the final terms between Laurentian and its many creditors.
Laurentian said it will seek a court order July 28 to authorize a meeting of creditors that would be held Sept.14 in order to vote on the plan.
Simon Archer, a lawyer and partner with Goldblatt Partners, said two-thirds of the creditors need to vote in favour of the plan for it to pass.
Goldblatt Partners represented the Laurentian University Faculty Association during the CCAA proceedings, but Archer was not personally involved in that case.
Plan likely to be approved, says lawyer
If the creditors reject the plan, Archer said, Laurentian would need to go "back to the drawing board" and come up with a new plan of arrangement.
But he said that is unlikely to happen because months of negotiations helped create the plan.
"They wouldn't have presented it to the creditors unless they were reasonably sure that they would get approval of it."
Archer said he hasn't seen the plan, but creditors typically receive 10 to 15 cents on the dollar in such arrangements.
"I guess another way to put it would be that there's often very substantial reductions in the total amount of claims received by unsecured creditors in particular," he said.
But voting in favour of the plan allows the debtor — Laurentian in this case — to continue existing.
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Fenske said he hopes the university will be able to heal once it exits the CCAA.
"I hope maybe that can be led by our Indigenous leaders who have a long history of, you know, helping people heal," he said.
"I think learning from them right now would be key, especially with our cultural mandate."