‘Stalking horse’ fades in Isaacson Steel acquisition race

A potential buyer of Isaacson Structural Steel has backed out at the last minute, and the bankrupt Berlin company is scheduled to be auctioned on Feb. 29.Whether it will be bought as a going concern and the jobs of 150 workers preserved, or whether it will be sold off in pieces, is now anybody’s guess.At the end of January, it looked like a “stalking horse” firm, Heico, would ride in to the rescue from Chicago, bringing Isaacson out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which it’s been in since June.Heico, a construction and manufacturing conglomerate with 35 companies — including a metal fabrication company that’s very similar to Isaacson — was willing to take the company as a whole.It was never definite whether the deal would go through. There were some objections to the stalking horse tactic. The committee representing unsecured creditors objected to the motion, saying that there weren’t enough details in the filing — such as the price offered by Heico — for them to agree to it.In any case, Heico backed out Tuesday afternoon, and nobody involved with negotiation could give a good reason why that happened.”We spent a lot of time in negotiations,” said William Gannon, an attorney for Isaacson. “A lot of people worked very hard to make this transaction feasible. The sincerity was truly incredible. We hope that all that work will make it easier for another buyer to step in.”Gannon said that there were discussions under way with a number of buyers. One source said that a meeting was set up Monday with a buyer from New England that planned to continue operations in Berlin, though perhaps at a lesser level than it currently operates.According to a draft schedule, which still has to be filed and approved by the bankruptcy court in Manchester, nonbinding “indications of interest” must be sent by Feb. 13, and actual bids must be sent in by Feb. 22.But that schedule could change if another, or the same, viable stalking horse emerges.Meanwhile, Isaacson faces another challenge. Its major contract with Turner Construction to build and erect steel for a 26-story building in Boston is winding down, and Turner has filed a “winding down” budget with the bankruptcy court.It has been the income from that contract, along with temporary financing, that has kept the company going as long as it has. But that job should be finished by March 1. — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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