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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Weber hopeful as Appco sale appears imminent


Weber hopeful as Appco sale appears imminent

The man charged with selling the bankrupt Appco convenience store chain is hopeful about that prospect as an agreement between the major parties involved appears imminent.

In an interview Friday, Andy Weber, whom bankruptcy Judge Marsha Parsons appointed as Appco's "chief restructuring officer" on April 14, said that despite the challenges of a bankruptcy now four months old, Appco has several good things going for it. Weber, a senior vice president with NRC Realty Advisors, also explained the rationale behind some of the hard choices he's made since wading into a troubled company he knew little about.

Weber said his task was to "have an operating group (of stores) with long-term viability for which the market is willing to pay the best value.

"To get there, we have had to be creative with our landlords, rebuild trust with our suppliers, and reconnect with our customers."

Weber said if a "global agreement" that satisfies Appco's lender, its landlords and its unsecured creditors is approved Wednesday, the pieces should be in place to get some good bids from parties that have been sniffing around since it became clear in April the 55-store chain would be sold. That agreement will allow Appco to shed unwanted leases, including some for lower- performing stores that won't make the cut in the sale and will likely close.

Weber has also had to try to mend fences with suppliers, many of whom got burned during Titan Global Holdings' 18-month ownership tenure, and he said "we have had to convince our customers that Appco can have the products and services they need." Those pieces required the "secured creditor," Greystone Business Credit, being willing to provide a "debtor in possession" financing even though Appco owes it more than $11 million.

Without both the financing and the pending new lease agreements - including both lease rejections and renegotiated rents on some of the properties Appco wants to keep - Weber said "it would be very hard to re-create and sell the value of the business."

That value has retained itself to what Weber considers a surprising degree, despite the troubles that began around December for Appco and resulted in poorly stocked stores, gas outages, and unpaid bills to unsecured creditors - everyone from large gas suppliers to snack suppliers - that total more than $7 million.

Titan paid longtime Appco owner Jim MacLean and partners $30 million for Appco in September 2007

To see a list of convenience stores for sale and gas stations for sale, click here.