Buyer set to reopen Hagerstown firm

PIPE ORGANS COULD PLAY AGAIN

January 13, 1993|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Staff Writer

A self-styled "junkman" from Chicago has bought the M.P. Moller name -- venerated for more than a century for its pipe organs -- and plans to resume building the elaborate instruments in Hagerstown.

"Like the Phoenix of old, Moller will arise from the ashes," said the buyer, Paul D. Stuck, owner of Recycled Office Furniture Systems of Chicago, a company that refurbishes used office furniture.

"I'm a junkman," he said. "What can I tell you?"

But the proposed operation would be quite different from the old company, with workers to own and run departments and operate as a cooperative.

Yesterday, Mr. Stuck's offer to buy the Moller name, archives,records and trade secrets for $50,000 was approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Rockville, which is overseeing the Moller bankruptcy.

Saying he has $2 million in orders already, Mr. Stuck said he planned to have a new organ factory operating next month. "We have organs to deliver; we are moving," he said.

Other Moller assets are to be auctioned this week, and the company's 98-year-old building is due to be sold Tuesday on the steps of the Washington County Courthouse.

Founded in 1875, the Moller company was the largest pipe organ company in the world and had a work force of about 130. But in the 1980s, the company went into decline, suffering from mismanagement and poor economic times.

It finally closed in April and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August. After a union-sponsored effort to revive the company fell through, liquidation of the company's assets started.

Mr. Stuck said he was negotiating for a building to house the new operation. He ruled out the company's old building, saying it was "terribly inefficient."

The new operation would be a division of King of Instruments, a company created by Mr. Stuck. The president of the Moller division would be Bill Gray, a former Moller official. The vice president in charge of artistic and tonal direction would be Daniel Angerstein, who also worked for Moller.

An additional 18 workers have agreed to participate in the plan, which would include investments by the former employees. "They are also the owners in this," Mr. Stuck said. "They have taken out mortgages on houses to get involved in this."

The new operation would be divided into four parts.

These departments would act as separate companies. "What we have is master craftsmen who have become entrepreneurs," Mr. Stuck said.

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