James and Wilma Wiersma have become the centre of attention for about 450 people who hold personal contracts with Arlen Galbraith, the Pigeon King from Waterloo, Ont.
The Wiersmas have done what many hoped someone could do: petition Galbraith into personal bankruptcy. Galbraith, however, is fighting the petition and his lawyer is preparing for a court date in early February.
The Wiersmas signed a personal contract with Galbraith and took delivery of 200 breeding pairs in December, 2006. Everything seemed to unfold smoothly as they delivered offspring during 2007 and into early 2008.
But then they had the rug pulled out as spring turned to summer. Along with about 1,000 investors across Canada and the U. S., they now sit on contracts once valued at more then $40 million and now worthless.
But that depends in large part on what happens to the Wiersmas’ petition because there is evidence that Galbraith has money, although now much is open to speculation.
He sold a house in Waterloo for about $350,000 after creditors petitioned the Pigeon King International corporation into bankruptcy. It was formed in February 2007 and owes about $23 million for long-term contracts, but has less than $25,000 assets.
Canada Revenue Agency visited Galbraith’s lawyer and persuaded the staff to turn over the proceeds from the house sale. Wiersma is laying claim to some of that money on the basis that Galbraith’s lawyer wrongly showed a preference among creditors.
The Wiersmas were paid $22,575 for pigeons they delivered, but the last shipment of $2,925 worth has not been paid. They are out of pocket by $22,746.23 for the breeding pairs they purchased from Galbraith, plus feed, housing, equipment, heat and their labour.
Wilma Wiersma said they are “not talking to reporters” as they have taken a “hands-off approach” to allow BDO Dunwoody to proceed on their behalf.
In their filings, the Wiersmas cite the $1 million the Hutterian Brethren of Bow City, near Brooks, Alta., paid for 2,000 breeding pair. That was also a personal contract with Galbraith.