On Sunday, May 15, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an article detailing the ownership of the Archbishop Cousins Catholic Center. In it, the reporter wrote that the Cousins Center was owned by De Sales Preparatory Seminary Inc. Ownership details surprised many who had presumed that the property was owned by the archdiocese.
The Communication Office felt that the timing of the article, as well as the bias of the headline, was unfortunate. Here are the facts:
- The Archdiocese of Milwaukee leases the Cousins Center property from De Sales Preparatory Seminary. It is De Sales Preparatory Seminary that owns the Cousins Center property.
- The archdiocese and De Sales Preparatory Seminary Inc. are separate corporations. The Archbishop of Milwaukee is president of each corporation. Each has its own board of directors.
- De Sales Preparatory Seminary Inc. was formed on Oct. 16, 1961.
- Over the years, global references to the ownership of the property have not necessarily been clear. Many assumed that the Cousins Center was owned by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. However, in financial statements as far back as 2004, where more detail is expected, the ownership was clear. (Footnote 7 of the 2007/2008 financial statement, is one example where it clearly states who owns the property. This footnote has been repeated with updates each year. When the archdiocese filed its schedule of assets and liabilities with the bankruptcy court on Feb. 7, 2011, it listed a leasehold interest in the Cousins Center. The archdiocese did not list title to the property.) Unfortunately, in more general references, as in media coverage and even some archdiocesan documents, ownership information was not detailed. This doesn't change the facts on record with the State of Wisconsin. De Sales Preparatory Seminary and Archdiocese of Milwaukee are two separate legal entities.
- In 2006, as part of the plan to pay the sexual abuse settlements in the California litigation, De Sales Preparatory Seminary made the decision to guarantee the loan the archdiocese took with Park Bank to settle with victims/survivors. In addition, De Sales Preparatory Seminary made the decision that it would sell the Cousins Center to assist the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in satisfying its debt to Park Bank.
- The archdiocese owns the "furniture and fixtures," and would have the right to sell those, or in this case, use them as collateral for a loan. The archdiocese also has a leasehold interest, which includes the right to sublet to tenants, such as the Milwaukee Bucks.
- Questions about the ownership arose when a recent legal motion, customary within the bankruptcy process, requested that the court extend the time the archdiocese had to assume or reject any leases it was engaged in. The motion included information about the lease agreement between the archdiocese and De Sales Preparatory Seminary.
- As the Chapter 11 process moves forward, the archdiocese could choose to sell its stake in the Cousins Center (the right to occupy the premises, and the right to receive rents from five tenants) as part of its Plan of Reorganization -- a plan that is reviewed by the Bankruptcy Court.
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