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Baltimore Jewish Times publisher sold at bankruptcy auction

BankruptcyFinancially Distressed CompaniesAuction ServiceNewspaper and Magazine

The company owned by the family that has published the Baltimore Jewish Times for 93 years was sold at bankruptcy auction Monday morning for $1.26 million to the owners of the Washington Jewish Week, who are promising to keep the local focus of the weekly magazine.

Louis Mayberg, one of the principals of Route 95 Publications, LLC, said the paper will continue to have "Baltimore-based reporters covering Baltimore-based issues…I hope we'll get the support from the Baltimore Jewish Community. We will have to earn their trust and respect."

Mayberg's group – an affiliate of Rockville-based WJW Group, LLC, which publishes Washington Jewish Week -- topped a Baltimore-based group of investors by $10,000 in the bidding for Alter Communications, Inc, which also publishes Style Magazine. The sale results will go before a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge for consideration on Thursday afternoon.

After an hour of bidding, Dr. Scott Rifkin, who was heading Baltimore Community Publishing, LLC, made no offer after his $1.25 million, which was much higher than he or anyone else expected the price to go.

"We're done," he said to Zvi Guttman, the bankruptcy trustee who was running the auction in a conference room at the downtown offices of Tydings & Rosenberg, which has represented Alter in their Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. "These gentlemen just bought a paper. I hope they do a good job not just for Washington, but for Baltimore."

Finishing third in the bidding was the magazine's former printer, H.G. Roebuck & Son, Inc., one of Alter's key creditors. Roebuck's high bid was $905,000, about 20 minutes before the bidding closed.

Andrew Alter Buerger, Alter's chief executive officer, said the auction outcome "shows the value of this great institution. It provides a great service to our community."

Last month, Buerger estimated the company would sell for $400,000 to $600,000, but on Monday he said he figured it might go as high as $750,000. Rifkin – a physician and health care entrepreneur whose investor group included his brother, Alan Rifkin, an Annapolis lawyer and lobbyist, and David Nevins, president of the marketing firm Nevins & Associates – said the price ended about 40 to 50 percent higher than he anticipated.

"Let's hope for the best for the Baltimore Jewish Times," said Rifkin, wishing the new owners luck.

Ronnie Buerger, Andrew Buerger's mother and co-publisher of the Jewish Times, said she was pleased with the outcome.

"This turned out to be, as far as I'm concerned, a very successful bidding and ending for the drama we've been through," she said.

The sale outcome is subject to court approval and appeal, but Guttman said he expected Monday's outcome to prevail in bankruptcy court.

If it does, it would bring to an end nearly two years of a proceeding that often grew contentious between Alter and Roebuck, as the two family-owned companies struggled in vain to come to terms on a joint plan to take the company out of bankruptcy.

Before their business relationship unraveled in a contract dispute in 2009, the companies had worked together for decades. Last fall, a bankruptcy court judge said from the bench that the proceedings seemed less like a bankruptcy and more like a bitter divorce, with both sides trying to inflict damage on the other.

Arthur.hirsch@baltsun.com

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