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Peter Brant’s White Birch Co. Files for Bankruptcy

Multimillionaire art collector, magazine publisher, and paper magnate Peter Brant's newsprint manufacturing company White Birch has filed for bankruptcy. According to Greenwich Time, the company is seeking "debtor-in-possession financing" of $140 million, using the help of Lazard Freres to steer them through the filing. The company will remain in business, and a loan is expected from current creditors, but if White Birch can't pay it back the company faces transfer out of Brant's hands.

Brant seemed optimistic about his company when he spoke with the New York Times last month, but by then the privately held company was already missing interest payments. It's a bad time for a company like White Birch, which, before the economic collapse in 2008, was practically printing money (back then, Brant was estimated to be personally worth over a billion — now it looks more like half that). But still, some Greenwich neighbors speculate that Brant might be using this as a deflection to protect himself from another scourge.

The impish playboy polo player has been married for fifteen years to supermodel and former Victoria's Secret angel Stephanie Seymour. Their torrid unfolding divorce — which so far has involved secretly planted GPS locators, smashed car windshields, accusations of theft, and urine tests — is being eyed suspiciously. "I think this is a ruse to hide divorce assets," one fellow polo-team owner told Greenwich Time. "Brant pays top-rated polo player Marino Aguerre at least $2 million a year to race for him and has the largest Jeff Koons modern art collection I've ever seen." Brant may well also have the largest Andy Warhol collection anyone's ever seen — while the artist was alive he was a backer, and Brant continues to publish Warhol's Interview magazine.

There's no doubt many of Brant's financial troubles are real. But during a rough patch last year when his magazine company stopped paying contributors what they were owed, insiders there also speculated he might be prepping himself for an unwelcome split of assets. He and Seymour, who share three children, did not sign a prenuptial agreement, and he's already reportedly paying $270,000 a month in alimony. Still, for a quietly efficient moneymaker of the old school, throwing his father's company (which employs at least one of his children) under the bus for the sake of a divorce ruling seems a bit out of character.

Peter Brant admits money troubles-files Chapter 11 [Greenwich Time]

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Photo: Patrick McMullan