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Bankruptcy judge OKs sale of Jewish Times

The 93-year-old Baltimore Jewish Times will be under new ownership before Passover begins at sundown Friday.

U.S Bankruptcy Court Judge Nancy V. Alquist on Thursday approved the $1.26 million sale of the financially strapped weekly to Route 95 Publications LLC, an entity created by the owners of Rockville-based Washington Jewish Week. The sale will be consummated on Friday, said Route 95 co-owner Louis Mayberg.

Alquist, in approving the sale, waived the 14-day objection period generally required under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The judge agreed with concerns expressed by the bankruptcy trustee, Zvi Guttman, that Baltimore Jewish Week and its soon-to-be-former publisher, Alter Communications Inc., could not survive the 14-day wait.

“I wish the paper to prosper and, in the hands of its new owner, continue to publish for at least 93 more years and hopefully longer,” Alquist said at the end of the 35-minute hearing at the federal courthouse in Baltimore. “I wish the paper the longest possible life.”

No objections to the sale were filed before or during the hearing, which began at 4 o’clock on Thursday.

In addition to Baltimore Jewish Times, Alter publishes Style magazine, Chesapeake Life magazine and a portfolio of custom publications.

CEO Andrew Alter Buerger, whose great-grandfather started the company, called the transfer of ownership “bittersweet.”

“I’m sad that my family won’t own this for the next 93 years,” Buerger said, but added that he finds solace in that the publications are “being taken over by a wonderful institution.”

Route 95 Publications was the high bidder at a bankruptcy auction that concluded Monday. The company outbid Baltimore Community Publishing, an investment group headed by Dr. Scott Rifkin, by about $10,000. A third potential buyer, H.G. Roebuck & Son, dropped out after a final bid of $905,000, Guttman said.

Alter had filed for Chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy on April 14, 2010, after Roebuck, its former printer, sued Alter and Buerger for breach of contract in 2009 and won a $362,000 judgment.

The rancor between Roebuck and Alter spread to the bankruptcy proceedings, leading Alquist to call it “truly amazing and perhaps spectacular” that Guttman was able to secure the sale without objections being raised at the end.

“Outstanding work, Mr. Guttman,” Alquist said at the hearing.

In addition to Roebuck’s judgment, the estate owes $400,000 to Wells Fargo Bank N.A., $100,000 to family member Ronnie Buerger for keeping the business afloat in recent weeks, $35,000 to Guttman for administrative costs, and an undetermined amount to Alter’s law firm, Tydings & Rosenberg LLP.