The Walton International Group Inc. and numerous related companies that form part of an organization administering 105,000 acres of land for development projects across North America — including Edmonton — has applied for creditor protection.

A Calgary judge granted creditor protection last week giving time for Walton International, the main Canadian operating entity, and about three dozen other investment, development and management companies to restructure under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.

These applicants are part of Calgary-based Walton Group, made up of hundreds of trusts, corporations and partnerships in Canada, the U.S. and Germany, according to documents filed by monitor Ernest & Young.

The documents cite an affidavit by chief executive William K. Doherty stating the Walton Group administers land investments and development projects covering 80,000 acres in the U.S. and 25,000 acres in Canada through an “extremely complex” structure of more than 600 corporations, limited partnerships and other entities.

Doherty says Walton International Group lost $67.3 million over the last three years as a result of the drop in the housing market caused by the Alberta recession.

North American staff at the applicant companies has been cut to 96 from 469 in 2013, he says.

The applicants and a dozen other firms form a small part of the Walton Group, and the other members aren’t part of the legal proceedings, an Ernest & Young report says.

“Management currently anticipates that most if not all of the non-applicants will be able to successfully continue in business without requiring CCAA protection; however, it is possible that some entities which are currently non-applicants will have to make application to be included,” the report says.

“This could occur if their creditors choose to make demand for payment of loans, refuse to make further advances on loans or take other actions which adversely affect the operations of non-applicants based on the admitted insolvency of the Walton applicants.”

The applicants will need interim financing to continue operating after the judge’s initial order expires May 26, the report says. They’re expected to return to court for approval of that financing May 9.

The privately owned company and its affiliates have been among the largest players in Edmonton and Calgary’s development industry for more than 35 years, managing 15,000 acres in the two centres a decade ago.

This includes most of the land in the city’s northeast Horse Hill area where farmers and food activists fought to preserve large-scale urban agriculture in the face of proposals for residential development.

In 2006, a Doherty family non-profit organization donated land and money to build Edmonton’s Our Lady Queen of Peace children’s camp beside the North Saskatchewan River.

gkent@postmedia.com

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