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Termination of the Trust of Great Northern Iron Ore Properties
The terms of the Great Northern Iron Ore Properties Trust Agreement, created December 7, 1906, state that the Trust shall continue for twenty years after the death of the last survivor of eighteen persons named in the Trust Agreement. The last survivor of these eighteen persons died on April 6, 1995. Accordingly, the Trust terminates twenty years from April 6, 1995, that being April 6, 2015.
Upon the termination date of the Trust on April 6, 2015, the certificates of beneficial interest (shares) in the Trust will cease to trade on the New York Stock Exchange and thereafter will represent only the right to receive certain distributions payable to the certificate holders of record at the time of the termination of the Trust. Upon Trust termination and after the wind-down process is completed, the Trust is obligated to distribute ratably to these certificate holders the net monies remaining in the hands of the Trustees (after paying and providing for all expenses and obligations incurred through the Trust’s termination and wind-down process), plus the balance in the Principal Charges account (this account is explained in the Trust’s Annual Report sent to all certificate holders every year), all of which are subject to the final accounting and approval of the Ramsey County District Court. All other Trust property (most notably the Trust’s mineral properties and the active leases) must be conveyed and transferred to the reversioner (which, effective January 1, 2015, is Glacier Park Iron Ore Properties LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Glacier Park Company, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of ConocoPhillips Company), without further payment or remuneration to the certificate holders, under the terms of the Trust Agreement. The wind-down process of the Trust is anticipated to extend into the calendar year following its termination date in order to complete the various year-end audits, court and regulatory filings, tax returns, conveyances of non-cash properties to the reversioner, etc., relative thereto. Subject to the guidance and approval of the Ramsey County District Court and assuming the wind-down process with the reversioner proceeds efficiently and that no other complications arise during this time period, we anticipate the wind-down process, final distribution and dissolution of the Trust will be completed by the end of 2016.
The Trust has previously provided information in its various Securities and Exchange Commission filings, including its Annual Report, about the final distribution payable to the certificate holders upon the Trust’s termination and after the wind-down process is completed. The exact final distribution, though not determinable at this time, will generally consist of the sum of the Trust’s net monies (essentially, total assets less liabilities and less properties) and the balance in the Principal Charges account, less any and all expenses and obligations incurred through the Trust’s termination and wind-down process. To offer a hypothetical example, without factoring in any expenses and obligations incurred through the Trust’s termination and wind-down process, and using the financial statement values as of December 31, 2014, the net monies were approximately $6,859,000 and the Principal Charges account balance was approximately $4,710,000, resulting in a final distribution payable of approximately $11,569,000, or about $7.71 per share. Upon the termination of the Trust, the certificates of beneficial interest (shares) would be cancelled and thereafter represent only the right to receive the final distribution. It is important to note, however, that the actual net monies on hand and the Principal Charges account balance will most likely fluctuate during the ensuing years and will not be “final” until after the termination and wind-down process of the Trust is completed. The Trust offers this example to further inform investors about the conceptual nature of the final distribution and does not imply or guarantee a specific known final distribution amount.
Pursuant to the Court’s Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order for Judgment filed on January 26, 2015 (“Court Order”), the Trustees' Petition for Instructions was approved by the Court and, consistent with the Trust Agreement, the Trustees are to immediately proceed with winding up the affairs of the Trust upon its termination on April 6, 2015, and to undertake the tasks and actions outlined in the Trustees’ Wind-Up Plan. The Court further ordered that the Trustees will retain possession and control of the Trust's cash and non-cash assets (and books and records related thereto), that they are authorized to enter into temporary employment agreements with the current Trust employees to assist the Trustees during the wind-down process, that the Trustees' compensation shall continue during the wind-down period until discharged by the Court, and that the Trust’s termination and wind-up expenses and costs (including attorneys’ fees) incurred after December 2013 shall be allocated between the certificate holders and the reversioner depending on the nature of the expense and as set forth in the Court Order. Expenses incurred after December 2013 and before the Trust’s termination date that are allocated to the reversioner will be charged to the Principal Charges account as of April 6, 2015. Finally, the Court required an interim status report on November 15, 2015, an annual audit for the year 2015 and, as soon as practicable after the Court's approval of the 2015 annual report, the Trustees shall have final audited financial statements prepared for filing with the Court for the approval of the Trustees' final accounting and discharge. Final distributions and conveyances to the Trust’s beneficiaries shall be made upon the order of the Court. The Court Order is subject to any timely-filed appeal.