Brazilian magazine group enters Chapter 15 in Florida

By Declan Bush

The administrator of a bankrupt Brazilian magazine publishing company has filed for Chapter 15 protection to search for assets its old owners may have stashed in the US.

Four entities – Minuano Comunicações e Produções Editorias, Diário de São Paulo Comunicações, Editora Fontana and Cereja Serviços de Midia Digital – filed a slew of documents before the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida dated 25 September.

Arnoldo Lacayo, a partner at Sequor Law specialising in financial fraud and asset recovery cases, is the debtors’ counsel in Miami. In a declaration to the US court filed on 1 October, Brazilian administrator Joice Ruiz Bernier, of São Paulo firm AJ Ruiz Consultaria Empresarial, said the Minuano companies were part of a publishing group owned by Spanish businessman Mario Florencio Cuesta and his ex-wife Giane Viana Cuesta. The Cuestas divorced in 2012.

Minuano was a big magazine publisher started in Brazil in 2004, which grew to include assets including longstanding newspaper Diario de São Paulo.

The first of Minuano companies went bankrupt in São Paulo in April 2017 after a creditors’ petition seven months before, the court was told. The other debtors were added to the Brazilian proceeding in January 2018 when it emerged they were run out of the same office and had commingled funds.

The debtors appealed the extension of the bankruptcy, but the Brazilian Court of Appeals in São Paulo affirmed it in June 2018.

As further entities and individuals were brought into the bankruptcy proceedings, the court made an order freezing the Cuesta’s assets, and those of five others and four of their companies on 8 October 2018.

By that stage, Bernier had already seized assets including a helicopter owned by the newspaper for the bankruptcy estate.

Bernier said her investigations had revealed the Cuestas were the debtors’ ultimate beneficial owners and had instructed the group’s directors on how to proceed, despite not being identified as shareholders.

“The Cuestas financed a lavish lifestyle through the use of the debtors’ assets, monetary and physical,” Bernier has told the US court in her declaration. “Investigations into the Debtors suggest that assets were diverted overseas to banks in Miami and New York.”

She says she intends to investigate the nature and extent of any of the debtors’ activities and assets in the US, as well as any assets bought with their funds.

A hearing has been set for 13 November.

In the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida

Minuano Comunicações e Produções Editorias, Diário de São Paulo Comunicações, Editora Fontana and Cereja Serviços de Midia Digital, case 19-23184-LMI

  • Judge Laurel Isicoff

Counsel to Minuano

In the Second Bankruptcy Court for the State of São Paulo

  • Judge Marcelo Barbosa Sacramone

Administrator to Minuano

  • AJ Ruiz Consultoria Empresarial*

Partner Joice Ruiz Bernier in São Paulo

*Formerly Satiro e Ruiz Advogados Associados

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