Bankruptcy trustee appointed to manage, find buyers for Jack's Hard Cider, Hauser Estate Winery
A federal bankruptcy judge has approved the appointment of a Chapter 11 trustee to lead a makeover of Adams County-based Hauser Estate Inc., the parent company of Hauser Estate Winery and Jack's Hard Cider.
The court's decision puts an independent contractor, Mifflin County bankruptcy attorney John Neblett, in place to evaluate operations and manage the company's finances. A big part of his job as trustee also will be to determine how much the business is worth and to begin marketing the company to potential buyers.
Hauser has been caught up in an ongoing power struggle among the family that owns it. The fight over the financial management and value of the company led to a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in late July.
The judge recently denied a $1.8 million buyout bid from a Maryland executive and his son because there was no valuation study to justify the offer.
Rather than pursue a Chapter 7 hearing to close the company and liquidate its assets, the dueling family members agreed last week to a trustee, which the judge approved Friday. A Sept. 20 hearing to convert the case to Chapter 7 was canceled.
With the trustee in and the Hauser family now out of the company's day-to-day decisions, Hauser attorney Lawrence Young of the CGA Law Firm in York said he believes multiple buyers could emerge to take over the company and keep it open. A new buyer also could infuse capital to grow the business.
In its Chapter 11 filing, the company listed about $5 million in assets, though most of that asset value — at least $3 million — is tied to the intellectual property of the Jack's Hard Cider brand.
Over the last decade, Jack's Hard Cider has grown its distribution into at least 10 states and Washington, D.C. But the family conflict has limited investment and the company's ability to fulfill all cider orders and pay its bills.
Prior to the appointment of a trustee, the judge ruled that the company can keep using cash collateral to fund its wine and cider operations, based on revenue coming in and projections about profits for fall orders.