After more than 50 years of admiring the lot at 1415 Bush St. in Southwest Baltimore, the Berg family will pay $800,000 to buy it and the headquarters building of Warner Fruehauf Trailer Co., the trailer distributor that sold the property in a bankruptcy auction yesterday.
Adam W. Berg, a partner in the family-owned Berg Group, a demolition and trash-disposal business, signed a $100,000 check to secure the purchase of the warehouse and office building sold by Warner Fruehauf as part of its reorganization under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The equipment housed in the buildings also was set for auction yesterday, but auctioneers rejected the lone $140,000 bid as too low.
Mr. Berg's father, Gerald W. "Buzz" Berg, said his own father was unable to raise the $9,000 necessary to buy the lot in 1937, a year after the Bergs' business was founded on West Hamburg Street.
The Bergs, who say they will lease all or part of the more than 50,000 square feet of indoor space on almost 4 acres, may have snagged a bargain in a weak real estate market, said David I. Bavar, vice president of Kayne, Levin, Neilson, Bavar Realtors, a commercial and industrial real estate firm.
"I think it was a very cheap price for the property. It's a very good location," said Mr. Bavar, noting the site's proximity to the center of the city, Interstate 95 and the Beltway.
The Bergs' cash purchase will help reduce the debt that prompted Warner Fruehauf management to seek Chapter 11 protection from its creditors last year, just three years after its leveraged buyout, according to Robert F. Lindsey, a company executive vice president.
Warner Fruehauf, one of only two independent distributors in the nation of Fruehauf Corp. trailers for trucks, is shedding its trailer-repair business.
"It wasn't making the kind of money we need it to in order to continue in that end of the business," Mr. Lindsey said. The company will now concentrate on selling new Fruehauf trailers and other brands of used trailers, he said.
Most of the employees at the Bush Street location worked in the repair side of the business, Mr. Lindsey said. About 60 of those employees have been reassigned to a network of seven repair shops in the region that are now run independently of Warner Fruehauf for its customers.
The 28 remaining personnel will be moved into Warner Fruehauf's new offices at 1800 Ridgely Avenue.
The company will have a hearing Dec. 12 to determine whether it can emerge from Chapter 11, Mr. Lindsey said.