Bankruptcy of sister firm raises concerns about Naples base landlord
By STEVEN BEARDSLEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 19, 2014
NAPLES, Italy — An Italian court has ruled that a sister firm of the company that owns and maintains the Navy support site here is bankrupt, raising concerns about the landlord’s financial shape and the impact of the ruling on the base.
The three-judge panel with a civil court in Naples ruled this week that the firm Mirabella Spa is financially insolvent, with no way of meeting its short- and long-term commitments — including a large sum of unpaid taxes — and an inability to raise money through banks.
Mirabella Spa is the construction arm of Gruppo Mirabella, which includes Mirabella SG, the firm that receives $42 million annually from the U.S. as owner and maintainer of the Navy support site in Gricignano d’Aversa. The support site provides housing, commissary and exchange stores for families assigned to bases in the area, including an installation at the Naples airport in Capodichino, home to U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, and NATO’s Joint Forces Command in nearby Lago Patria.
Naples base commander Capt. Scott Gray said Gruppo Mirabella warned him about the ruling last week and assured him operations on the base would continue as normal. Several skilled workers on the base are employees of Mirabella Spa but are expected to continue working or switch to another company in Gruppo Mirabella, Gray said he was told.
“We have not seen any impact,” he said. “Could there be? Absolutely. That’s why we’re tracking it.”
The ruling adds to the Navy’s unease over the financial condition of Gruppo Mirabella, which owns several developments in the area. Base officials who have worked closely with the company say it has been hit hard by the economic recession. Base workers employed by Mirabella Spa and Mirabella SG have gone on strike repeatedly on claims of irregular pay, causing work to be delayed. “Absolutely it’s a concern,” Gray said. “We have gone to them on multiple occasions and said we pay you on time, we expect you to pay your workers on time so they show up to work and we don’t suffer these labor disruptions that affect residents on the support site.”
Gruppo Mirabella is hoping for a renewal of base contracts in 2015, which would be funded in the coming fiscal year if approved.
Mirabella Spa owed 63 million euros in unpaid taxes between 2003 and 2014, according to reports in the Italian newspapers Il Mattino and Corriere del Mezzogiorno. Tax authorities raided the company’s office last summer to seize cash, and they seized company properties. Banks finally refused to lend the firm money, according to reports.
“At this point we have our contingency plans and we’re watching and waiting to see what happens,” Gray said.