Tech Company Backed by Bill Gates Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

By: Georgia | Published: May 09, 2024

Ambri, a company on the cutting edge of developing liquid metal batteries with backing from Bill Gates, has hit a financial snag and filed for bankruptcy. 

The company cites a tough time raising funds and disputes with a landlord and contractor as the culprits, issues that surfaced when expansion plans were scrapped.

Bondholders Step Up to the Plate

The Wall Street Journal reports that as Ambri navigates these challenging financial times, a group of bondholders led by Gates has stepped in to spearhead the sale process. 

Group of professionals, mostly men in business attire, posing for a photo at an energy storage conference with a digital background displaying the event's logo

Source: Ambri_Inc/X

They’re putting forward $38 million of secured debt in their bid, which is still open to higher offers and awaits court approval.


Courtroom Drama Unfolds

The fate of Ambri’s financial restructuring is now in the hands of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware. 

Three models of liquid metal batteries labeled 'Ambri', showcasing a simple rectangular metal casing with blue and orange text

Source: Ambri

Having filed for Chapter 11, the company reveals it’s wrestling with debts over $50 million, with any sale hinged on the emergence of superior bids.

Birth of a Battery Vision

Ambri’s journey began about 14 years ago in an MIT lab, where Professor Donald Sadoway’s work on liquid metal batteries caught the eye of Bill Gates. 

Wide view of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's main building with a large dome and columns

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Envisioned as a greener alternative to traditional batteries, this idea soon sparked a bigger vision.

Turning Science into Start-Up

A visit to MIT in 2009 convinced Gates to fund Professor Sadoway’s vision. 

Bill Gates gesticulating during a discussion at a panel, seated next to two other male panelists in a conference setting

Source: BillGates/X

The next year, with Gates’ initial financial support, Ambri was born—originally named Liquid Metal Battery—as Sadoway and David Bradwell embarked on transforming the battery technology landscape.

A Surge of Financial Support

From 2021 to 2023, Ambri attracted roughly $150 million to bring their battery technology to market and start up a production facility. 

Close-up view of a pile of US hundred dollar bills scattered, showcasing the various details and serial numbers on the currency

Source: Mackenzie Marco/Unsplash

This influx of funds, with contributions from Gates and others, marked a pivotal phase in Ambri’s journey.


Big Plans Hit a Snag

Ambri’s ambitions to open a major manufacturing facility in Milford, Massachusetts, saw them pouring $18 million into the project. 

Logo of Ambri, featuring a stylized battery icon in orange and the company name in blue capital letters

Source: Ambri/Facebook

The goal was to scale up their innovative technology, but financial hurdles soon put a damper on these plans.


Construction Comes to a Halt

Despite the financial infusion and big dreams, Ambri struggled to finish their manufacturing facility, reflecting the broader challenges faced by many emerging companies in renewable energy. 

Silhouette of construction workers on a building site at sunset, with cranes and scaffolding outlines against an orange sky

Source: Shivendu Shukla/Unsplash

Ambri’s CFO, Nora Murphy, highlighted these industry-wide funding struggles in a sworn declaration.


Legal Troubles Surface

2023 brought more than just financial strain.

Close-up of a judge's gavel on a dark wooden desk, emphasizing the gold band around the head of the gavel

Source: Sora Shimazaki/Pexels

Ambri found itself entangled in lawsuits for breach of contract by both their landlord and the general contractor, adding layers of complexity to an already tough situation.


A Strategic Retreat

In response to its escalating financial and legal woes, Ambri has shifted its focus from manufacturing to prioritizing research and licensing. 

An elderly businessman in a blue suit presenting a prototype battery in a modern battery testing facility

Source: Todd Wilson/MIT

This move is part of a broader strategy to navigate through bankruptcy effectively and limit further losses.


Financial Lifelines

To help steer through these turbulent times, Ambri has secured an additional $9.5 million from its existing bondholders, including Gates and the sustainability-focused investment firm Fortistar. 

Black and white logo of Fortistar, featuring the company name with the tagline "SUSTAINABLE PERFORMANCE" beneath it in a minimalist font

Source: Fortistar/X

This financial boost is essential for keeping their operations afloat and continuing their research endeavors.


The Stakeholders' Stance

In the midst of bankruptcy, Gates remains a major player through his venture firm, Gates Frontier, owning 37% of Ambri. 

Bill Gates sitting in a business meeting, wearing a dark blue suit and a striped tie, with a thoughtful expression

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Other key investors include Paulson with 21% and Indian powerhouse Reliance Industries with 17%. Despite recent layoffs reducing staff numbers to 61, Ambri’s journey is far from over.