Negotiations for Parks sale drag on Mayor, governor meet with Harris

Schmoke expresses optimism

June 14, 1996|By Sean Somerville | Sean Somerville,SUN STAFF

Franco Harris met yesterday with Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening, but participants said the two 30-minute meetings are not a sign that the former football star has struck an agreement to save Parks Sausage Co.

"They're making progress, but it would be premature to say a deal is done," Schmoke said.

Schmoke did say he's optimistic about prospects for a deal because Harris' group has "real good, solid financing" -- the obstacle to a previous attempt to sell Parks.

Glendening said he had a "good meeting" with Harris.

"We discussed a number a details [that could be implemented] if -- and I emphasize if -- they reach an agreement," he said.

"I expect in the next few days, we'll have some announcements."

Ira Cooke, Harris' Baltimore-based lawyer who set up the meetings with Schmoke and Glendening, said their purpose "was to introduce [Harris] to both of them with the potential of him becoming a Maryland corporate citizen. But no final agreement has been signed."

Harris met with Schmoke and city Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III yesterday morning in Baltimore City Hall. He later met with Glendening and members of the governor's staff at a Glen Burnie church.

Parks, a 45-year-old company headquartered in the Park Heights neighborhood, is the city's largest black-owned manufacturing company. The company closed its doors three weeks ago and sent home all but a few of its 219 employees.

Since then, lawyers for Harris and for Parks Chairman Raymond PTC V. Haysbert Sr. have been trying to negotiate a sale to Harris, the former Pittsburgh Steelers running back and majority owner of Super Bakery Inc. in Pittsburgh.

Parks, which posted about $20.5 million in sales during its last fiscal year, owes credi-tors $10 million. Included are debts of $2.8 million to the city of Baltimore, $5 million to NationsBank and about $2.2 million to utilities, vendors and other creditors.

NationsBank has not said whether it would reduce, eliminate or otherwise restructure the debt. The bank has expressed only a general willingness to work with Parks.

Schmoke has said he's willing to allow a new owner to restructure or refinance the debt to the city, which includes a $2.4 million grant and a $400,000 line of credit.

In an interview, Schmoke said he has more confidence in Harris' attempt to buy Parks than in a previous attempt by W. Kevin Wright, former general counsel to TLC Beatrice, and Anthony S. Fugett, a Baltimorean and Beatrice board member.

That deal fell apart early last year because the group failed to get financing.

Financing appears to be an even more important factor now because of the company's debt and the need for a cash infusion to start Parks up again.

"I feel a little more confident mainly because I know the source of the financing," Schmoke said.

Schmoke would not elaborate. He said only that Harris' company "is doing very well. Also, I'm convinced they have real good, solid financing."

But Schmoke stressed that there's still no deal: "I really don't want to in any way give the impression that there is a done deal, or that there's going to be a major announcement."

State development officials have said they're willing to supplement any agreement between Harris and Parks. Ray Feldmann, a spokesman for the governor, would not comment about the type of assistance discussed by Glendening.

Haysbert did not return phone calls. Mark Friedman, his attorney, who had anticipated a quicker agreement, said Monday that Harris' group was working on plans to integrate Parks Sausage into Super Bakery Inc.'s operations.

"They want to be sure they feel totally comfortable with their knowledge" of Parks, he said.

Pub Date: 6/14/96

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