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Auction date proposed for Jewish Times publisher

After 93 years in the hands of the same family, the Baltimore Jewish Times could go to auction next week under a proposal filed Wednesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Zvi Guttman, newly appointed trustee for publisher Alter Communications Inc., entered a proposed schedule under which the company’s assets would be auctioned on March 28. Objections would be accepted up until 4 p.m. the following day with the new owner announced after that.

Guttman was appointed to oversee the sale of Alter by order of Judge Nancy V. Alquist after the publisher and its former printing company missed a deadline to agree on a plan to bring Alter out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The sale will take majority ownership out of the hands of the Buerger family, which has run it since its founding in 1919 by David Alter.

Linda Yurche, general manager of Alter, said a number of people have been in to look at the company’s books since Friday. The Baltimore Sun reported Wednesday that it is one of the interested parties.

Guttman said there have been two formal offers submitted: one by Rockville-based WJW Group LLC, which publishes Washington Jewish Week, and the other from an investment group led by businessman Dr. Scott Rifkin.

Both suitors have a history with the bankruptcy proceeding, which was filed after the company’s former printer, H.G. Roebuck & Son Inc., sued Alter and Alter CEO Andrew Alter Buerger for breach of contract in 2009 and won a $362,000 judgment.

WJW was central to a $378,000 deal proposed by Alter’s attorneys at Friday’s hearing, which would have had to close by March 21. Alquist rejected the plan as unworkable given the time constraints.

Rifkin had headed an earlier attempt to bring Alter out of bankruptcy that fell apart due to indecision and infighting among the Buerger family, according to court testimony. The current offer from his investment group, Baltimore Community Publishing LLC, is for $440,000.

Guttman said interested parties would be bidding on the assets of the company, including the publications and equipment.

“What we’re selling here is the going concern,” Guttman said. “The winning bidder can step right in and publish.”

Until the sale is complete, Yurche said the Jewish Times would continue to publish as it has, uninterrupted, for the past 93 years. She said all employees turned up for work on Monday after the hearing and would be paid — concerns that had been raised during the hearing last week.

“We’re going to continue to receive offers and keep operating business as usual,” Yurche said. “There are no anticipated interruptions, and everyone is going to be paid this Friday just like normal.”