Brian Resnick, a Patriot lawyer, told the bankruptcy court the company's payment will include $250,000 in cash and stock in the company reorganized under the court's supervision, according to court filings.
"They lost a significant portion of their benefits," Cohen said, "but it was better than Delphi and other bankruptcies, where salaried retirees ended up with next to nothing." (Delphi, which filed for Chapter 11, is a major supplier of electronics for the automotive industry).
Jim Gillenwater, who lives in South Charleston, worked as a salaried supervisor at Peabody Coal for 35 years, then another four years as a private contractor. Earlier this month, Gillenwater expressed fears that he and his wife, Phyllis, would lose all the health-care and pension benefits Peabody promised them over the years
"I don't have enough information about the settlement yet. We don't have any details about what happened in court yesterday," Gillenwater said Thursday. They gave us some money, but we've got to figure out how to distribute it."
Patriot Coal, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 9, 2012, also is negotiating with the United Mine Workers of America about reducing benefits the company provides to union retirees.
When Patriot filed for bankruptcy, it cited reasons that included declining market demands for coal and $1.6 billion in estimated lifetime health-care benefits owed to 8,100 union and salaried retirees.
Patriot Coal was founded Oct. 31, 2007, when Peabody Coal sold all its union operations east of the Mississippi to the newly formed company. In 2008, Patriot bought Magnum Coal, a company that had taken over union mines once operated by Arch Coal.
"As a spinoff of Peabody, Patriot has a lot of strange connections," Cohen said. "Some liabilities were passed through and others were retained. For its salaried employees, Peabody still maintains pension obligations. Their pension obligations were not at issue [in bankruptcy court]. Health insurance and life insurance were.
"Oftentimes, salaried retirees don't fare as well in bankruptcies as union employees because they don't have the same bargaining power. Unions typically have more negotiating power in bankruptcies. It is nice when a salaried group can bargain a reasonable compromise."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.