Bryn Awel digs out of trouble paving company blocks competitor, insolvency bid

September 27, 1996|By Bill Atkinson | Bill Atkinson,SUN STAFF

In an emergency hearing yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Bryn Awel Corp. defused a competitor's efforts to force the troubled Towson-based paving and construction company into bankruptcy.

Bryn Awel executives and attorneys negotiated for about three hours behind closed doors at the bankruptcy court in Baltimore with officials from Redland Genstar Inc. and Driggs Corp.

Redland Genstar, a Hunt Valley competitor and supplier that claims it is owed $2.6 million, filed documents on Sept. 19 with three other creditors to push Bryn Awel into bankruptcy.

"It's been tough. This is a step in the right direction," said Harry Ratrie, Bryn Awel's chief executive, after the negotiations. "I can't tell you how upset I am that we are in this position. It is unbelievable to me."

In December 1995, Bryn Awel began talking to Redland Genstar about selling the company. But the talks ended in August because Redland wouldn't commit to retain Bryn Awel's 257 employees, complete its contracts and pay off most creditors, Bryn Awel officials said.

Driggs, a Capitol Heights construction company, stepped in and, on Sept. 19, signed an agreement to buy Bryn Awel and fulfill its demands. The same day, Redland Genstar filed a motion to force Bryn Awel into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Under the agreement worked out yesterday, Redland Genstar will have until Oct. 1 to make another bid for Bryn Awel that is

equal to or better than Driggs' offer, Bryn Awel attorney Richard L. Wasserman told bankruptcy court Judge James F. Schneider.

Wasserman told the judge that an agreement would keep Bryn Awel's 257 employees and complete the company's projects. Wasserman said an agreement should result in the bankruptcy proceedings' dismissal.

After the hearing, Mark Friedman, an attorney representing Redland Genstar, said if the company makes a counter proposal, employee and customer issues will be addressed.

"We are evaluating the situation," he said. "Nothing that happened today should cause alarm for the employees or the customers."

Assuming Redland Genstar buys Bryn Awel, the companies have agreed to pay Driggs a $225,000 "break-up fee" and cover other expenses.

J. Thomas Hood III, Bryn Awel's chief financial officer, said Driggs spent $200,000 to buy Bryn Awel's supplies.

Donald E. Bowman, Redland Genstar's president and chief executive, could not be reached for comment after the hearing. In a letter to employees, he said he was pleased with the outcome, and that a team of employees has been assembled to review Bryn Awel's books and come up with an offer by Sept. 30.

Nelson C. Cohen, an attorney representing Driggs, said the company retains the right to counter any offer made by Redland Genstar.

The sale of Bryn Awel is expected to close in the next two weeks.

Founded by Ratrie in 1963, Bryn Awel operates manufacturing facilities in Rosedale and Crofton. It has worked on projects such paving I-83, I-95, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and the parking lot at Sinai Hospital.

Ratrie and other Bryn Awel executives pledged personal assets to Mercantile-Safe Deposit and Trust Co., Bryn Awel's largest secured creditor, to meet the company's payroll.

"At least I still have the shirt on my back," Ratrie said.

Pub Date: 9/27/96

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