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Baltimore Jewish Times creditor challenges bankruptcy plan

The largest creditor of the parent company of the Baltimore Jewish Times and two local magazines is appealing the firm’s court-approved bankruptcy plan, claiming it returns less cash than an outright liquidation.

In December, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved a Chapter 11 reorganization plan for Alter Communications Inc. that let it continue to operate while paying creditors back over the next four years. Alter 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 bankruptcy settlement, Alter will pay Roebuck and other unsecured creditors 85 percent of its net cash through 2015, which amounts about 15 cents on the dollar owed.

On Tuesday, Roebuck appealed the plan and questioned whether it was in the best interest of the creditors, since the amount generated was “uncertain.” The company also said there were questions as to whether liquidation of the company would generate more than enough money to pay everyone back.

Andrew A. Buerger, president of Alter Communications, said Thursday the company was moving ahead under the plan approved by the court in December and would fight the appeal.

“We’ve been operating the company with zero changes since April when we first filed,” Buerger said. “And, this is a pain in the neck to deal with, but we expect to win this round as well and continue on as usual.”

The dispute started after Alter parted ways with its longtime printer with two years left on its contract over a cost issue. In December 2009, Roebuck responded with a lawsuit and was awarded $362,000 for lost income and interest. Roebuck had an additional claim for $1.2 million in damages pending.

Other creditors include the Baltimore Development Corp., which in 2002 loaned Alter $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.

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.