The parent company of the Baltimore Jewish Times and two local magazines has received approval for its Chapter 11 reorganization plan that will let it continue to operate while paying creditors back over the next four years.
Alter Communications Inc. had filed for bankruptcy in April after the company did not reach a settlement in a lawsuit by the H.G. Roebuck & Son printing company of White Marsh over a broken contract. Under the deal, Alter will pay Roebuck and other unsecured creditors 85 percent of its net cash through 2015.
Andrew A. Buerger, president of Alter Communications, said Friday the company was able to come through the bankruptcy without affecting its publishing business. He said Alter was also able to maintain its 40-person work force while the bankruptcy case was being heard.
“This is the route we had to take to survive,” he said. “No one likes to file Chapter 11 — it’s expensive, it’s embarrassing and it’s no fun.”
In addition to the Jewish Times, Alter publishes Style magazine, Chesapeake Life magazine and a portfolio of custom publications. The Jewish Times, Maryland’s largest Jewish weekly publication, publishes on Fridays, averages more than 120 pages and has a paid circulation of nearly 50,000, according to its website.
The paper was founded in 1919 by David Alter, and Buerger took over the company when his father, Charles A. Buerger, died in 1996. Andrew Buerger changed the company name from Jewish Times Inc. to Alter Communications.
Alan M. Grochal, an attorney with Tydings & Rosenberg LLP who represented Alter, said the plan means unsecured creditors like Roebuck will see about 15 cents on the dollar owed.
The bulk of the payments from this net cash stream will be to Roebuck. Alter parted ways with its longtime printer with two years left on its contract over a price dispute. Last December, Roebuck responded with a lawsuit and was awarded $362,000 for lost income and interest and had an additional claim for $1.2 million in damages still pending.
In addition to the lawsuit, Roebuck is objecting in the bankruptcy case to Buerger and his mother being repaid for loans they personally made to the company. Under the plan, they would be repaid with the other unsecured creditors.
“If this were just about the money between Roebuck and Alter, we probably could have gotten a deal done without going to court in the first place,” Grochal said. “But, there was a lot of bitterness between the parties, so it was not just about the money.
Other creditors include the Baltimore Development Corp., which in 2002 loaned the company $150,000 to relocate to the city from Owings Mills. Alter received approval in October 2009 to suspend principal payments on the loan for two years. The Jewish Times offices are located near the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.