Better Place liquidators receive emergency court meeting, hoping to rescind deal

Abramowitz: Liquidators are pushing the nuclear button prematurely and in breach of contract.

Nadav in Better Place car_390 (photo credit: Nadav Shemer)
Nadav in Better Place car_390
(photo credit: Nadav Shemer)
Six weeks after the Green EV consortium acquired the assets of Better Place, the fallen electric vehicle company’s liquidators have requested an emergency court meeting on Sunday to rescind the deal.
Upon declaring bankruptcy on May 26, Better Place had less than $9 million cash on hand, and had been taken on by liquidators Sigal Rosen- Rechav and Shaul Kotler. The Green EV consortium, led by American-Israeli solar entrepreneur Yosef Abramowitz, acquired both the operational and intellectual property at the Central District Court on July 10, for NIS 18m. and NIS 25m., respectively.
At Rosen-Rechav and Kotler’s request, the court will convene in Lod on Sunday at 12:30 p.m., to determine the future of the deal.
“They essentially used the nuclear option prior to the meeting to blow up the entire deal with the courts,” Abramowitz told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday night. “It completely torpedoes our ability to finish any of the investment deals, charge the drivers the back fees that they owe us.”
Following Green EV’s acquisition of the company, Central District Court Deputy President Ilan S.
Shiloh granted Green EV an extension on an initial NIS 3.5m. payment for the assets, because the Transportation Ministry had not yet renewed the import licenses necessary to transfer 350 Better Place cars to the consortium. Green EV had planned to sell the first 200 at NIS 70,000 each, for a total of NIS 14m. – money that would have been used to make all milestone and operational payments for the next few months, Abramowitz explained.
In response, a rival wouldbe purchaser of the electric vehicle firm – Merkur-CCGI – filed a request to the court, stressing that Green EV would not be able to stand by its financial commitments.
In a court discussion that ensued on July 31, Shiloh issued an ultimatum saying the Transportation Ministry must re-approve the import licenses for the 350 electric vehicles so that they could be transferred to Green EV by August 6 at 10 a.m. Meanwhile, within 14 days of receiving the import license – or by August 21 at the latest – Green EV would need to make good on its first NIS 3.5m. payment, the judge declared.
The import licenses have yet to be granted and the payment therefore has yet to be made, Abramowitz said.
Nonetheless, the Green EV consortium heads received a copy of a letter around 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday that the liquidators had sent the court earlier that day – asking for an emergency meeting to cancel the deal, he explained.
The Green EV team was supposed to meet with the liquidators on Wednesday, but due to a personal conflict of the board’s chairman, the meeting was rescheduled for Thursday at 3 p.m. In the end, the Green EV team did convene with the liquidators at the scheduled Thursday 3 p.m. time, and the emergency court meeting was scheduled for Sunday. Neither side disclosed the details of what happened at Thursday’s meeting.
“If Idan Ofer and Shai Agassi [the chairman and founder/CEO of Better Place, respectively] couldn’t succeed with $850m., we knew it was going to be difficult to try as a green citizen’s movement,” Abramowitz told the Post on Thursday, following the meeting. “But it is a worthy cause, with enthusiastic drivers, and worth a try. It would be tragic if Better Place 2.0 failed over a simple and preventable matter from the liquidators and Ministry of Transportation.”
The current Better Place car drivers owe Green EV a total of NIS 2m., but because the billing system that the consortium inherited “was all a mess,” reconstructing the system took time, Abramowitz explained. The consortium is in the process of billing the drivers, to be able to meet September’s payroll.
“The liquidators, by pushing the nuclear button prematurely, while they are in breach of not giving us the cars to sell, are irresponsible and undermine our ability to continue to deliver the service to the drivers,” Abramowitz said.
“How can you charge us for the assets if you’re not giving us the assets, and especially when those assets were meant to help us pay for our costs and give confidence to the investors?” he asked.
The Transportation Ministry told the Post on Thursday that according to the court decision, Green EV was supposed to submit certain documents and technical materials to the ministry to facilitate the import license approvals for the 350 vehicles.
“Under the conditions of the Transportation Ministry, the Green EV company must meet with these legislative requirements,” the ministry spokesman said. “These documents have not yet been submitted, and therefore, it is not possible to approve the registration and import of the vehicles.”
In addition, the issue that the vehicles are now 12 months past their date of manufacture and therefore cannot be released to the consortium is now undergoing judicial proceedings, the ministry spokesman said.
A spokesman for Green EV stressed that “all the documents for the transportation minister were submitted as required, and the only dispute is regarding the transfer of NIS 8m. that the liquidators are not allowing the company to grant to the Transportation Ministry, in order to enable the sale of the cars.”
The liquidators did not return phone calls and emails from the Post. Meanwhile, the lawyer for Merkur-CCGI said the group led by businessman Tsahi Merkur also had not comment.
Green EV had promised to keep at least 15 battery swap stations open and hire 50 Better Place employees, and the consortium has kept 18 stations open and hired 60 employees, Abramowitz said. Since the takeover, Green EV has overseen 10,000 battery swaps and has enabled electric vehicles to drive more than 2 million kilometers, he added.
“We’ve kept our promise to maintain the service above and beyond,” he said.
Green EV has informed the liquidators that the consortium considers them in breach of contract, Abramowitz said. The commitments, he said he now feared, would “probably be undone” due to the liquidators’ request.
“This premature nuclear option will definitely threaten not only the payments from the drivers but the closing of deals with our investor base,” Abramowitz said.
“Imagine the emotional roller coaster of these drivers.
“I think it’s a historic, tragic day for the electric vehicle industry,” he said.Niv Elis contributed to this report.