July 17, 2009 in City

Howser files for bankruptcy

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Martin Howser, who finances conservative causes and candidates and comes from a wealthy Spokane family, has filed for bankruptcy. He is attempting to shield his wife’s assets – estimated in the millions of dollars – from lenders and other creditors, according to U.S. Bankruptcy Court filings in Spokane.

Howser is the grandson of the late Martin Woldson, the Spokane pioneering businessman and railroad builder whose name now graces the refurbished Fox Theater. Howser’s aunt, Myrtle Woldson, donated the money to the theater renovation effort. Howser continues to live on the South Hill’s well-heeled Sumner Avenue with his wife, Charis Howser.

The Chapter 11 bankruptcy centers on the struggles of Howser’s small cable company, CCS LLC, and a legal fight with his largest creditor, Gladstone Capital Management.

Howser filed for bankruptcy one day before Gladstone gained a state court judgment last spring allowing the seizure of assets. A key piece of the bankruptcy filing is that it excludes Howser’s wife and her business interests, attempting to keep those assets from Gladstone’s collection efforts.

Because of that, the law firm representing both Martin and Charis Howser in other legal matters will not be allowed to handle the bankruptcy work. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Patricia Williams said during a hearing Thursday morning that a conflict of interest exists.

Timothy Fischer, who represents the Howsers, did not return a phone message left at his office after the hearing.

Howser and his small cable company defaulted on a loan held by Gladstone, a Maryland investment business that bought the promissory note from Westburg Media Capital.

The original loan was for $3.5 million and was personally guaranteed by the Howsers. It matured last August, but Gladstone agreed to extend the repayment deadline 10 times.

Howser sold the Liberty Lake piece of his cable system to Comcast for $2 million last year and paid the proceeds to Gladstone.

According to Gladstone’s account of the dispute, its efforts to collect the outstanding balance have been “met with stalling and excuses.” Gladstone went to court and received a judgment against the Howsers and the cable company.

The firm has garnisheed accounts tied to the Howsers, including one operated by “Friends of the NRA (National Rifle Association)” that listed Charis Howser as a signatory, and has moved on the couple’s joint checking accounts.

Before Gladstone could collect, Howser filed his bankruptcy petition that excluded his wife’s money and debts and sought to suspend Gladstone’s legal action until the debts and money available could be reckoned.

Besides $1.1 million owed to Gladstone, Howser also listed credit card debts of $78,600, and a $552,000 mortgage.

Bankruptcy filings affix a price tag to everything, from Howser’s collection of European autos, gifts of diamonds, gold and pearls, down to the value of common kitchenwares such as a pair of cookie sheets valued at $2.

The couple have donated more than $50,000 over the past 10 years to campaigns for federal office-seekers or political action committees involved in federal campaigns, according the Federal Elections Commission.

The couple have spent another $26,000 on political candidates and causes in Washington state, according to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission.

The Howsers also are members of the parish at Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral and have given thousands of dollars to the church and other Catholic causes.


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