(UPDATE: November 28 — Reports are emerging that Bondurant has re-opened. Repeated messages to Bondurant spokesman Aaron Cook have not been returned, but we'll update this article further when more information is available.)
For 50 years, the Bondurant Racing School was a place where car enthusiasts and regular drivers could satisfy their need for speed on a closed track.
But on Monday, the high-performance driving school closed its doors in the wake of last month's bankruptcy filing.
No one answered the phone at the facility at 20000 South Maricopa Road in Chandler, next to Firebird Lake. But Carter Nacke, editor at ClassicCars.com, posted an article about the closing on Monday complete with a photo of a sign on the front door reading, "School is Closed."
The sign said to direct all inquires to Pat Bondurant, the school's president and CEO. Bondurant didn't return a call from Phoenix New Times. Nacke wrote that a spokesman, whom he didn't name, confirmed that the school closed.He wrote on Twitter that the school was "closed for good."
However, Aaron Cook of TimePiece PR and Marketing told New Times today that the closure was unexpected, and he suggested the facility would be open again soon. He released the following statement on behalf of Bondurant:
"In October, the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, Inc. filed a voluntary petition under Chapter 11 in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Arizona. This was an important first step to help us restructure the School.
"Yesterday, we experienced circumstances that unexpectedly caused the School to close its doors temporarily.
The Bondurants intend on continuing the School’s restructuring efforts, negotiating with potential investors, and implementing a new management team to assure the successful future of the School. We remain optimistic and hope to keep the School's legacy alive for years to come."
Asked what he meant by "temporarily," and whether the company would refund any classes that were prepaid by students, Cook wrote back, "We’re working on the details now and will let you as soon as possible." He did not answer follow-up emails or a call on Tuesday afternoon.
Formula One championship racer Bob Bondurant started the school in California in 1968. The facility moved to Firebird Raceway in 1990, according to its site. For varying fees, motorists could take courses like, Advanced Teen Driving, Executive Protection and Tactical Mobility, Advanced Road Racing, and other offerings, using souped-up Bondurant cars.
The school declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month, reporting that it owed between $1 million and $10 million to creditors.
Pat Bondurant, in a court declaration last month, indicated that the company had already been worried about being locked out by its landlord:
"Four factors led the Bondurant School to file for bankruptcy protection," Bondurant wrote. "The first and primary factor was the Bondurant School’s inability to pay rent for September 2018 without jeopardizing its ability to pay ongoing operational expenses and payroll. The Bondurant School was concerned that its landlord, Sun Valley Marina Development Corporation (“Sun Valley”), a tribal corporation chartered by the Gila River Indian Community (“GRIC”), potentially could have exercised its lease rights and locked the Bondurant School out, which would have disrupted its ongoing operations. However, since filing its bankruptcy petition, the Bondurant School and Sun Valley/GRIC have been in contact, and the SunValley/GRIC is supportive of the Bondurant School’s efforts to reorganize."
Possibly, the school and landlord have been unable to come to terms since that October 5 filing, leading to Monday's closure. The other factors Bondurant mentioned included Dodge and Fiat providing "inconsistent" sponsor support, Dodge requiring the return of Vipers on loan, and the company's pursuit of new investment.
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The Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing "enables the Bondurant School to court additional suitors/investors and to operate without interruption while the investor works out certain issues currently frustrating the transaction," Bondurant wrote.
The company also owes Chase bank $149,000 from a 2011 loan, and is currently paying only the interest on that loan of $800 per month. The school is disputing Chase's claim against Bondurant assets for the unpaid loan, records state.
Bondurant Racing School had 31 full-time and two part-time employees when it filed for bankruptcy.
Without a serious jump-start, this car school may be stalled for a while longer.