The Bixi Bike-Share Bankruptcy Saga Just Got Even More Interesting

It's looking like Canadian furniture magnate and adventurer Bruno Rodi will step in to save the troubled firm. 

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Reuters

The long, strange story of Bixi, the Montréal-based company that provides equipment for some of the world’s largest bike-share systems, got even weirder last Friday, as its bankruptcy sale ended with a courtroom drama.

Earlier in the week, Canadian furniture magnate and adventurer Bruno Rodi had put in what looked a winning $4 million bid to buy the troubled firm. Then, at the last minute, the New York company REQX Ventures – a project of Equinox Fitness and luxury real estate behemoth Related Companies – countered with an offer for $5.5 million. Both Rodi and REQX were willing to pay cash for the international arm of Bixi, which is $44 million in debt.

REQX’s sally came too late, a Quebec Superior Court justice decided on Friday after hearing lengthy arguments. Rodi’s $4 million carried the day, and all of it will go to the city of Montréal, which is Bixi’s major creditor and has shelled out an estimated total of $40 million on the bike-share innovator since it was founded in 2008. As Andy Riga reported in the Montréal Gazette, the city will also get the bike-share equipment in the Montréal system, worth about $11 million.

Both of the Bixi offers were made in all-cash, but one of the reasons the judge rejected REQX’s bid was that the company apparently failed to fork over a 10 percent deposit as required. As late as last year, it looked like Bixi might fetch as much as $32 million, but attempts to close those deals fell short, and the company has been in bankruptcy protection since January.

If Rodi’s offer clears the next hurdle, a court date Tuesday for final approval, he will be the owner of a company that has been widely hailed as a pioneer in the bike-sharing field, providing the hardware for systems from Melbourne to London to New York, but which has struggled with poor management and murky finances since its inception.

Who is Rodi, anyway? Well, have you ever seen those Dos Equis ads featuring “the most interesting man in the world”? This dude gives that one a run for his money, and in real life. The owner of the furniture company Rodi, “le spécialiste du sofa,” is also a world traveler who has undertaken an almost ridiculous number of adventures and was reportedly on a boat in the Indian Ocean while the Bixi sale was going down.

In his bio on the website for one of his expeditions – a trip, undertaken with his filmmaker son, to the super-remote sub-Antarctic Bouvet Island – Rodi outlined his accomplishments this way:

In his journeys he has climbed the highest summit of each of the seven continents: Everest, Aconcagua, McKinley, El Brus, Kilimanjaro, Vinson and Kosciuszko. He’s also skied to both the North and South poles, completed the Tour de France, sailed all of the world’s oceans and several seas. Beginning in 2003, he undertook the challenge of travelling to all countries and territories on earth while visiting close to a thousand of the World Heritages Sites. Remarkably after eight years, he is almost done.

That Tour de France ride, it should be mentioned, was not in competition. Instead, Rodi retraced the route of the 2003 ride, all 3,427 mountain-packed kilometers of it, with the help of Canadian Olympian road biker and Tour veteran Steve Bauer.

Rodi is clearly a guy who likes to take on seemingly impossible challenges. Maybe that makes him just the right man for Bixi.

Update: It looks like Bixi's bankruptcy problems have had a tangible effect on at least one of the system's major clients. Officials at Washington, D.C.'s Capital Bikeshare said last week that planned expansion of the system is being delayed because orders for new equipment remain unfilled. "There are potential problems down the road if this doesn't get straightened out," D.C. transportation planner Jim Sebastian told the Washington Post.

About the Author

  • Sarah Goodyear has written about cities for a variety of publications, including Grist and Streetsblog. She lives in Brooklyn.