Joseph Luzinski, senior vice president of Development Specialists Inc. in Miami, was named chief restructuring officer in a voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy case filed by Lighthouse Imports LLC, the debtor who owns a Toyota dealership in St. Augustine.

Lighthouse Imports, doing business as St. Augustine Toyota, cited secured debts totalling $23 million in three loans obtained from Deerfield Beach-based World Omni Financial Corp.

The principal owner, Howard F. Hubler, bought the dealership in September 2007.
In the company’s case management summary filed with the Middle District of Florida, Orlando division, it describes a series of misfortunes that began in 2009.

The combination of the Great Recession and the Florida real estate market crash were blamed for depressing automotive sales. This was exacerbated by consumer concerns over widespread reports of “unintended acceleration” and a subsequent order by Toyota Motor Division USA to impound much of their inventory.

The Japanese tsunami of March 2011 again disrupted business by interrupting the vehicle supply chain and access to electronic parts manufacturers.

These problems forced the dealership into a forbearance agreement with World Omni in September 2011, and a second forbearance agreement.

Meanwhile, Hubler sought a cash infusion through a joint ownership agreement, but Deerfield Beach-based Southeast Toyota Corp. ultimately rejected it.

Hubler sought a second forbearance agreement with World Omni in Aug. 8, 2012. But a cash transfer dispute with the rejected joint venture partner, who was St. Augustine Toyota’s manager, led to a liquidity shortage.

“Accordingly, the debtor field this case to gain liquidity and restructure its debts while continuing operations,” the Oct. 24 filing states.

According to Luzinski, the dealerships options are to restructure internally, liquidate or sell, but the most likely prospect is a sale.