Case | HBS Case Collection | January 2009 (Revised April 2009)

Disaster in April: The Obligations of Kelly Construction

by John D. Macomber, Christopher M. Gordon and Ben Creo


A construction company experiences a crane accident with multiple fatalities. The CEO, a client, and an employee must make choices to meet the company's obligations. Set in 2006, the case looks at the choices faced by board members of a museum that is an important client and that is faced with a completion deadline and of a key employee who has other offers of employment and is negotiating a stay-put bonus. The rights and interests of the surety company that provided the construction bond are also interwoven. The protagonist is the CEO of a multi-generational family business who must now negotiate with these parties and then decide whether to attempt to raise new capital, declare bankruptcy, or try to lead a controlled wind-down. The case explores crisis management, decisions by principals operating in the zone of insolvency, construction contract types, the limits of recourse available from construction bonds, roles of board members, calculation of an employee stay-put bonus pool, subcontractor and vendor communication, and reputational issues around bankruptcy or closure of a closely held family business. Analytical tools include contract status report, contractor balance sheet, and stay-put bonus pool.

Keywords: Business Exit or Shutdown; Family Business; Insolvency and Bankruptcy; Governing and Advisory Boards; Compensation and Benefits; Contracts; Crisis Management; Construction Industry;


Macomber, John D., Christopher M. Gordon, and Ben Creo. "Disaster in April: The Obligations of Kelly Construction." Harvard Business School Case 209-099, January 2009. (Revised April 2009.)