- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The financier of a shuttered biofuel refinery is asking a Mississippi state court judge to name a receiver for the company’s Columbus plant, at the same time that he’s accusing the state of scaring off a potential buyer.

Companies controlled by Vinod Khosla filed the motion Friday in Lowndes County Chancery Court, marking yet another escalation in a fight between the billionaire venture capitalist and the state of Mississippi. They say a receiver is needed to protect the interests of all creditors and that the plant can’t pay the $271,872.04 in property taxes due Feb. 1.

A Jan. 27 hearing is set on the matter.

In a Sunday letter to Mississippi Development Authority Executive Director Brent Christensen, Khosla accused Mississippi of political grandstanding in its efforts to recover what the state says is $79 million owed by the company on a state loan.

“At multiple junctures, I or my representatives proposed various paths for resolving the fate of KiOR Columbus in a manner that would return some value to the taxpayers of Mississippi and help support the goals of ongoing employment at the plant,” he wrote. “All of these were met with either negative and unproductive responses or intransigence.”

During the run-up to the November bankruptcy filing, KiOR hired Guggenheim Securities to try to sell the company or its Mississippi plant, which is separately incorporated as KiOR Columbus. State and local officials had been expecting KiOR to put its Mississippi unit into bankruptcy as well, said Joe Max Higgins, the CEO of Golden Triangle Development Link, a Columbus-based economic development agency. KiOR’s move into chancery court was unexpected, he said.

Higgins said he took a number of potential buyers on tours, but none bought the plant. Khosla said the state drove away at least one buyer.

“In fact, it is my understanding that Guggenheim had engaged a credible buyer who spent a significant amount of time and money assessing the Columbus plant and was poised to make a purchase offer late in 2014, but was scared away from the negotiation table by the state’s needless and expensive political tactics, ultimately frustrating the only existing opportunity to support jobs and value at the Columbus plant,” Khosla wrote.

The state disputed Khosla’s claims, but declined to address them specifically.

“MDA does not intend to engage in a public letter-writing campaign with Mr. Khosla or to write self-serving letters for purposes of releasing them to the media,” MDA spokeswoman Marlo Dorsey wrote in an email. “MDA disagrees with Mr. Khosla’s and his companies’ characterizations of events and continues to seek all appropriate relief from any and all responsible parties in the courts.”

The state wants to push Texas-based KiOR, which filed for bankruptcy reorganization, into liquidation. That could stop a new Khosla company from buying KiOR’s assets and continuing its research to turn wood chips into a crude oil substitute. Khosla and KiOR, have pushed back against Mississippi’s moves.


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