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After failed buyout bid, Maryland business owner back to buy Hauser Estate for $1.2M

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The entrance to Hauser Estate Winery along Cashtown Road in Franklin Township, Adams County.
The entrance to Hauser Estate Winery along Cashtown Road in Franklin Township, Adams County. - (Photo / )

After his first buyout attempt was rejected in September, a Maryland executive is making another bid to scoop up bankrupt Hauser Estate Inc., the parent company of Jack's Hard Cider and Hauser Estate Winery.

But his latest offer is lower than the first, as the Adams County company limps along with limited staff during a bankruptcy process that began over the summer.

Factions of the Hauser family have been fighting over the company's financial management and value, which led to a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in July.

A sale motion was filed Tuesday in federal bankruptcy court. The motion would clear the way for Donald Hoffman to buy Hauser Estate for $1.2 million and keep it running, free and clear of any liens. Hoffman, who is president and CEO of Excel Services Corp., a nuclear engineering and consulting firm in Rockville, Maryland, previously offered $1.8 million.

The bankruptcy judged denied Hoffman's first offer because there had been no valuation study or marketing to justify the offer.

Since then, an investment banking firm, Three Twenty-One Capital Partners, has been marketing the company and more than 20 parties have made inquiries, according to court documents. The firm was hired by the bankruptcy trustee, John Neblett. He was appointed in September to oversee company operations through its Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.

According to the latest sale motion, Neblett has agreed to the deal. Hoffman was not immediately available for comment. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Opel II would ultimately need to approve the deal. 

Acceptance of the deal also is conditioned on whether higher and better offers are received by Three Twenty-One Capital Partners. The Maryland-based firm's managing partner, Ervin Terwilliger, said the firm will accept bids up until Nov. 23.

"If others bid more and it is deemed a qualified bid by the trustee, an auction will take place at a date to be approved by the courts," Terwilliger said.

The proposed auction date would be Nov. 29, according to a marketing flyer. 

If no one else bids, Hoffman will be able to buy Hauser.

Terwilliger said a separate motion filed recently by the trustee to convert the case from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7 — which typically means closing a company and liquidating it — was a procedural move. He said it will "not impact our sales efforts." A hearing on that conversion is slated for Nov. 7 in Wilkes-Barre.

If Hoffman is approved to buy the company, he would have the option to renegotiate a lease with the Hauser family to keep the operations at 410 Cashtown Road in Franklin Township. He could also move the operations.

Jack’s Hard Cider burst onto the cider scene in 2008, well before cider became a mainstream craft beverage. Apple-rich Adams County has since churned out several other cider makers.

Jack's sells through a series of distributors in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Ohio and Maryland. Hauser also has two retail locations, in Biglerville and downtown Gettysburg, where it sells its cider and wine products.

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Jason Scott

Jason Scott

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin and Cumberland counties. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jscott@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal.

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