Chapter 11 is a chapter of the United States Bankruptcy Code, which permits reorganization under the bankruptcy laws of the United States. Chapter 11 bankruptcy is available to any business, whether organized as a corporation or sole proprietorship, or individuals with unsecured debts of at least $336,900.00 or secured debts of at least $1,010,650.00, although it is most prominently used by corporate entities. In contrast, Chapter 7 governs the process of a liquidation bankruptcy, while Chapter 13 provides a reorganization process for the majority of private individuals with unsecured debts of less than $336,900.00 and secured debts of less than $1,010,650.00 as of April 1, 2007.
When a troubled business is unable to service its debt or pay its creditors, the business or its creditors can file with a federal bankruptcy court for protection under either chapter 7 or chapter 11. In chapter 7, the business ceases operations and a trustee sells all of its assets and distributes the proceeds to its creditors. A chapter 11 filing is usually an attempt to stay in business while a bankruptcy court supervises the "reorganization" of the company's contractual and debt obligations. The court can grant complete or partial relief from most of the company's debts and its contracts, so that the company can make a fresh start. Sometimes, if the business's debts exceed its assets, then at the completion of bankruptcy the company's owners all end up without anything; all their rights and interests are ended and the company's creditors are left with ownership of the newly reorganized company.