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Kaama Files for Bankruptcy; Had Settled Business Debts

November 08, 1991|JOHN O'DELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — Kaama Marine Engineering Inc., a Costa Mesa maker of power systems for racing and ski boats, filed for bankruptcy liquidation this week--several months after shutting its doors and paying off its business debts.

Kaama closed after the death from cancer in January of founder Betty J. Cook, the only woman to ever have won national and international championships in offshore powerboat racing.

Cook, who was 70, began racing at the age of 50 after working as a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Stanford Research Institute. She also worked in the presidential campaigns of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy.

In its bankruptcy filing in Santa Ana, Kaama listed $9.7 million in liabilities and $165,000 in assets. But the liabilities do not represent debts to creditors or customers, said Stephen E. Smith, the lawyer handling the bankruptcy.

"This is a rare case in which the company paid off all of its trade debt before closing down," he said. Of the liabilities, $9 million is owed to the Betty J. Cook Foundation for funds advanced to the company to repay creditors, he said. The remaining $700,000 represents potential liability in several unsettled product liability lawsuits.

Lisa Nordskog, editor of Powerboat magazine, said Kaama had been a medium-size maker of propeller-drive power systems, which are widely used in European boat racing but run a distant second in the United States to jet propulsion systems.

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