Remembering Al Kennedy

Tonkon Torp partner Al Kennedy passed away on December 19. Al was an exceptional lawyer, partner, mentor, and friend. Through his four decades at Tonkon Torp, Al’s positive impact on the firm and his clients was profound, and his reputation as one of Oregon’s preeminent bankruptcy experts was well-earned.

Al began his legal career as an associate attorney with Russell, Ward, Hodgkins & Heaney in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He became Vice President, Assistant General Counsel and Supervisor of the Litigation Division of Orbanco Financial Services Corporation’s Legal Department in Portland in 1981.

In 1984, Al joined Tonkon Torp to establish a dedicated bankruptcy practice for the young firm, and became a partner in 1986. He played a significant role in growing and shaping Tonkon Torp’s bankruptcy and corporate reorganization practice, which has represented debtors in most of the significant commercial and bankruptcy cases filed in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest in the last few decades. Al led a remarkable roster of landmark cases that received national recognition, and which are ranked among Oregon’s first, largest, or only cases of their kind.

One such case was the 2010 Chapter 11 proceeding for Stayton SW Assisted Living, L.L.C. (Sunwest), and over 700 substantially consolidated affiliates which resulted in a confirmed Plan of Reorganization. The biggest and most complex bankruptcy case ever filed in Oregon included the consolidation, restructuring and $1.2 billion sale involving over 700 of Sunwest entities. Al and Tim Conway led the Tonkon Torp team who developed and executed a complex resolution that restructured obligations owing to over 90 secured lenders, sold 146 senior living facilities (including approximately 1,200 tenant-in-common interests held by investors), and resulted in distributions to creditors and investors exceeding 100% of their claims. This work was recognized with the 2011 Turnaround of the Year Award – Large Company category by Turnaround Management Association.

Another recent award-winning bankruptcy proceeding led by Al was the 2020 sale of NORPAC Foods, Inc. Tonkon Torp served as the primary debtor-seller representative for NORPAC in its Chapter 11 cases, which involved the sale of a variety of hard and soft assets and payment of claims of more than $200 million. Al led the team of Tonkon Torp attorneys who structured the multi-faceted sale of NORPAC’s assets and developed NORPAC’s Chapter 11 plan of liquidation. The confirmed bankruptcy plan included substantial distributions to unsecured creditors significantly above the amounts projected at the outset of the Chapter 11 cases. The sale was named an M&A Deal of the Year ($100MM-$250MM) in the 19th Annual M&A Advisor Awards, which annually selects the finest deals and professionals within the global M&A and Turnaround industry.

Al’s practice focused on complex corporate reorganizations and restructuring. His expertise in all areas of commercial, bankruptcy, and creditors’ rights law was widely acknowledged by peers and clients, and he was sought after counsel for bet-the-business matters. Commenting on Al’s approach to Best Lawyers, client Kameron DeLashmutt of Central Land and Cattle Company, Inc. remarked that Al “has a unique skill of driving directly to the heart of the matter and isolating those issues which are key to resolving impasse and concluding negotiations successfully. His documentation is superb and he takes the same approach to find critical issues and deal with them.”

Navigating challenging, multi-faceted reorganizations with a strategic focus on best outcomes and as a staunch advocate for his clients was Al’s hallmark. Reflecting on his experience with Al to Best Lawyers, client Melvin Ellis of Suturegard Medical said, “Ours was a challenging case, during a bad economy in the wake of 9/11. Al did a masterful job of gathering the facts, making sound recommendations to our group, and arguing the case in court. At the end of the three to four days of testimony, the judge said to me in open court that we had enjoyed superior legal counsel.”

Al was consistently recognized for practice excellence by Chambers & Partners, Best Lawyers, and Super Lawyers. He was ranked AV Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell, and in 2021, was admitted as a Fellow in the American College of Bankruptcy. Al was the first Tonkon Torp attorney, and one of only four insolvency professionals from Oregon, to be admitted to the prestigious fellowship.

Al was generous in his contributions to Oregon’s legal body of knowledge. He was a frequent speaker and author on bankruptcy-related topics and notably authored Chapter 16, Development, Confirmation, and Consummation of Chapter 11 Plans, 2 Oregon Law (Oregon CLE: 1999) and the 2007 Supplement. In 2022, Al contributed to three State Q&A Bankruptcy and Restructuring guides for Thomson Reuters Practical Law.

Outside of work, Al supported many civic organizations during his career, most recently as a member of the Board of Trustees for the High Desert Museum.

During his time at Tonkon Torp, Al was a mentor to a number of attorneys. Partner Ava Schoen, who worked with Al for 15 years, shares the thoughts of many who mourn his passing, saying, “I am tremendously grateful to have learned from and worked with Al.  He was generous with his time and wisdom, was supportive, and always recognized the achievements of others.  I will miss Al’s amazing professional instincts and knowledge as well as his kindness and endless curiosity.”

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