Detroit Gets Its Overseer, May Still File Bankruptcy

Finally, there’s an adult in the room.

Michigan’s governor on Thursday named a financial overseer of Detroit, who said his turnaround work could be completed in as little as six months if all the stakeholders in the troubled city work together.

Kevyn Orr, a bankruptcy attorney and partner at the law firm Jones Day in Washington, D.C., was named Detroit’s emergency financial manager, a role that will give him sole, sweeping power to map the future of the city of roughly 700,000 residents. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder said he picked Mr. Orr for his interpersonal skills, legal and financial acumen and a 30-year track record of work on complex corporate restructuring efforts, including the 2009 bankruptcy of Chrysler Group LLC.

“He’s one of the leading experts in the country,” the governor said during a press conference in Detroit, flanked by Mr. Orr and Detroit Mayor David Bing. “I think we should be very pleased that we got someone of his high caliber to come take this position.”

Mr. Orr’s selection was approved later Thursday by a state board that oversees emergency municipal financial managers.

Mr. Orr said he wouldn’t rule out a municipal-bankruptcy filing by the city—which would be the largest such filing in U.S. history—but that he thought the restructuring could be done without one.


Orr will have some newly minted legal authority to offer a little encouragement for them all to play nice and make the turnaround move along. He can effectively neuter many of the city’s officials but has already hinted that they can avoid that by not resisting him much. He’s also not getting an open checkbook from the state, as Gov. Snyder has stated throwing a lot of money at Detroit “doesn’t make a whole lot of sense right now”.


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