The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame could be under new management as early as this summer if bankruptcy proceedings go as planned, the court trustee appointed to the case said Wednesday.
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma on Monday will hear attorney Stephen Moriarty’s motion outlining proposed procedures for the bidding process. The filing sets an April 9 deadline for written bids to be submitted with the sale hearing before the court to take place on or after May 10.
“If the court were to approve the timeline that I suggested, I think probably by June 1 there could be a new operator for the Jazz Hall,” Moriarty said.
Moriarty has already heard from 10 organizations or individuals interested in taking over operations of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, and what he’s hearing has made him hopeful.
“I think the one constant … is that everybody is passionate about this,” Moriarty said. “I mean everybody really, really, really wants to see this succeed. Now they may have different ideas on how you accomplish that, but I think that is the one common thread throughout all of these folks.”
If genuine concern for the Jazz Hall of Fame were all that was needed to keep it running, the organization would likely still be afloat. But in November, after years of barely getting by, the Jazz Hall was sued by the Tulsa County Industrial Authority to recover $8,474 in past-due taxes and utilities.
Two months later — on the same day as its eviction hearing — the Jazz Hall of Fame filed for bankruptcy.
The Jazz Hall of Fame leases the Union Depot, at First Street and Cincinnati Avenue, a facility bought and refurbished by the county with $4 million in Vision 2025 funds. It pays $1 a year in rent and is required to cover tax, insurance and utility costs.
Moriarty said qualified bidders will be allowed to make offers on individual Jazz Hall of Fame assets — including its lease with the county, its name and its internet site — or on all of them.
“It affords them an opportunity to bid on what they want to bid on with the notion that we are going to try and maximize the recovery on these assets,” Moriarty said. “If they are interested in the lease, it is going to require sufficient funds upfront to cure any existing monetary defaults on the lease, and that is probably $35,000-plus as we sit here today.”
Taking into account court costs and attorney fees owed by the Jazz Hall of Fame, Moriarty said, potential bidders should expect upfront, out-of-pocket costs to be at least $100,000.
But dollars and cents won’t be the only factors in determining what is deemed the “highest and best” bid, he said.
“There are interests in the community … there are interests with the Tulsa citizenry, there is a cultural and historic legacy, all of which I think have to be factored into consideration of the bid that is presented to the court,” Moriarty said. “At the end of the day, I am the guy who makes that decision, and I submit what I believe in my heart to be the best bid, and then the court can approve it or disapprove it.
“It is not my final call, that’s the judge’s call.”
Moriarty said it’s his understanding that the county is obligated to allow the winning bidder of the Jazz Hall of Fame lease to operate the organization out of the Union Depot building so long as that person or organization is able to meet the financial obligations due under the lease and can ensure future performance under the lease.
“I believe the issues are that since this funding mechanism was provided by a sales tax initiative on a ballot referendum with specific directions as to what money was to be spent for what purpose, I think that there is an argument that the county is obligated, as the owner of that property, to house the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in that space,” Moriarty said.
County Commissioner Karen Keith said her primary concern is getting the Jazz Hall of Fame up and running, wherever that might be.
“I am (just) happy to have the Jazz Hall in good hands, under solid management, and working for both the musicians and the community and the people who love it,” Keith said.
The Jazz Hall of Fame did not keep good records of its assets, Moriarty said, so he is still working to determine which assets are owned by the organization and which ones are not.
“Through this process, I can only sell what the Jazz Hall owns,” he said. “If it is somebody else’s property, I don’t have the right to sell it.”