A key creditor in the bankruptcy of the Baltimore Jewish Times and Style Magazine publisher has become the third bidder for the firm, raising the prospect of new ownership that the current chief executive officer said would be "a real tragic end to this company."
H.G. Roebuck & Son Inc., the company's former printer, submitted its initial bid of $450,000 hours before the 5 p.m. deadline on Thursday, said Zvi Guttman, the trustee appointed this month by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to sell the assets of Alter Communications Inc.
Starting bids of $440,000 were entered earlier by Route 95 Publications LLC, run by the same group that publishes Washington Jewish Week; and Baltimore Community Publishing LLC, an investor group led by Scott Rifkin, an Owings Mills physician and health care entrepreneur.
Guttman will preside at the auction scheduled for Monday morning at the downtown office of Alter's lawyer, Tydings & Rosenberg LLP. The results of the auction will then be considered at a hearing before a bankruptcy judge, which is scheduled for Thursday.
Andrew Alter Buerger, Alter's CEO and the Jewish Times' publisher, said he was not surprised Roebuck had bid but was not happy about it. He called the prospect of Roebuck's owning the company "the worst outcome, absolutely. … For somebody like Roebuck, who essentially caused all the damage, to end up owning this company, that would be a real tragic end to this company."
Buerger said that Alter's employees "don't want it" and added that "advertisers have said they're gone" if Roebuck were to take over the firm.
Charles Roebuck III, one of the principals of the White Marsh printing company, did not return a call seeking comment Thursday night.
Alter filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection two years ago, soon after losing a $362,000 Baltimore County Circuit Court judgment in a breach of contract suit brought by Roebuck. Since then, the two companies have tried to produce a joint plan to take Alter out of bankruptcy, but have not been able to agree on terms.
Roebuck has claimed that Alter owes more than $1 million in lost printing revenues. Buerger blames Roebuck for failing to accept several offers to settle the dispute and says Roebuck is bent on destroying the company.
Buerger supports the bid made by Rifkin's group, as the investors have ties to Baltimore and its Jewish community. The investors include Rifkin's brother, Alan Rifkin, one of Maryland's top lobbyists, and David Nevins, president of Nevins & Associates, a Hunt Valley marketing and communications firm.
"We want to keep this as a Baltimore-owned and -operated organization," Nevins said this month, adding that the group planned to upgrade the Jewish Times' content, particularly its website.
Established by Buerger's great-grandfather, the Jewish Times has appeared every Friday for 93 years. Alter claims the weekly, now published in magazine format, has a paid circulation of 8,500. Style Magazine is published seven times a year.