By the end of this week, Sonoma Valley?s scenic Viansa winery is likely to have a new owner.
The fate of the popular tourist destination founded by Sam and Vicki Sebastiani is scheduled to be decided at an auction Thursday in bankruptcy court in Reno.
But unlike the Legacy Estates bankruptcy last year, which triggered a bidding war that led to a $97 million sale, a similar outcome appears unlikely.
Only one outside bidder has come forward to express an interest in purchasing the winery from the bankrupt 360 Global Wine Co.
Santa Monica-based Woodbridge Capital Partners LLC has made an opening bid of $20 million for Viansa. The offer is less than half the $40.5 million opening bid made by the company?s largest creditor, offshore hedge fund Laurus Master Fund, according to Marty Brill, 360 Global?s Los Angeles bankruptcy attorney.
While the difference between those two figures may make it seem Laurus is assured to become the winery?s new owner, that?s not necessarily the case, Brill said.
Laurus may have no interest in owning the winery and may take an amount less than its debt to cut its losses, Brill said.
?If somebody waves $35 million in front of Laurus, I think they?d be hard-pressed to say no,? Brill said.
360 Global purchased Viansa Winery and Italian Marketplace in 2005 from the family of founders Sam and Vicki Sebastiani for $31 million, all of which was borrowed.
The young company started by a Connecticut investment banker with no experience in the wine industry struggled under the weight of its debts from the beginning. Its claimed strategy of assembling a portfolio of small wineries and improving the way they are marketed fell apart when most of its wine interests turned out to be hype and its only real wine partnership, a joint marketing venture with Napa?s Kirkland Ranch
The bankruptcy case is being handled in Reno because 360 Global was incorporated there, reanimated from the wreckage of a defunct technology company.
Brill blamed 360 Global?s troubles on high debt and ?mismanagement? by the company?s former management.
The investment banker who started 360 Global, Jake Shapiro, was removed as the company?s chief executive officer and replaced by John Bryan.
While it would be unusual for another bidder to step forward this late in the game, it is not unheard of, said Bruce Beesley, 360 Global?s Nevada bankruptcy attorney.
It would also be helpful for the creditors, most of whom are expected to get a mere 10 cents on the dollar in the deal.
A second smaller class of creditors is expected to get 25 cents on the dollar.
The unsecured creditors of the winery are not happy about that and have challenged that portion of the reorganization plan. They worry that Laurus will acquire control of Viansa for $40 million, and turn around and sell it for more, making money off the deal while they get stiffed.
They have asked the judge to establish a way for them to receive more money if Laurus makes a profit on a sale of Viansa within five years. Brill calls the request a ?long shot.?
?Unfortunately, this is what the winery is worth,? Brill said. ?Anything they get is better than nothing.?