Companies agree to buy Isaacson; fate of jobs unclear

A consortium of three companies that specialize in auctioning off commercial assets agreed to buy Isaacson Structural Steel at a bankruptcy auction for $2.4 million on Wednesday. Those three companies — Counsel RB Capital LLC, of White Plains, N.Y., Ohio-based Myron Bowling Auctioneers, and Hilco Industrial of Michigan — outbid a designated “stalking horse,” Investment Recovery Services, a firm that also specializes in selling off industrial equipment. The sale still has to be approved by the bankruptcy court, and there was already at least one objection filed against the bidding procedures. But whether the tentative new owners will keep the company and its 150 workers together as a going concern, or liquidate it piece by piece, is an open question. “Everything is a possibility, we just don’t know,” said Jonathan Reich, Co-CEO of RB Capital. “We have to do our due diligence and get a sense if there is anything to salvage.”
There were also other bidders involved in the auction, said Isaacson attorney Bill Gannon, including “one in which we had a feeling was considering the possibility” of salvaging the company to some extent.Isaacson Structural Steel Inc. (ISSI) and its affiliate, Isaacson Steel Inc. (ISI), filed for Chapter 11 reorganization on June 22, striking another blow to the economically distressed North Country.ISSI is the larger entity, involved in providing steel for buildings throughout New England, including the 20-plus-story Liberty Mutual building being built in Boston. ISI sells steel to smaller contractors and individuals.Sugar Hill-based Presby Environmental bought the smaller entity — which employs around 20 people — on February 10 for $250,000, with the intention of keeping it together. But preserving ISSI’s jobs has been the chief focus of various officials, ranging from Issacson’s owners to the Business Finance Authority to the governor’s office. At one point, it looked like another stalking horse — Heico Companies LLC, a Chicago conglomerate that manages a similar company — might buy Isaacson with the intention of keeping it intact, but Heico backed out of the deal at the last minute. On Monday, a court filing identified another stalking horse, Investment Recovery Services of Fort Worth, which bid $2 million. That company would get a “break-up” fee of less than $50,000 under the bidding procedures. Objecting to the sale was Wells Fargo Equipment Finance Co., a secured creditor on certain vehicles. But the Passumpsic Savings Bank, which claims it is owed about $12 million on the property, did not file an objection before the sale. According to its website, Counsel RB Capital “specializes in the acquisition and disposition of distressed and surplus assets throughout the United States and Canada, including industrial machinery and equipment, real estate, inventories, accounts receivables and distressed debt.” On the other hand, it bought the closed Gorham paper mill and later sold it to Patriarch Partners, which reopened it. Myron Bowling Auctioneers website primarily displays vehicles that it is auctioning off, and Hilco Industrial describes itself as a “worldwide leader in machinery and equipment auctions and disposition services.” — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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