Mostly clear

Former Sebastiani family winery set to be sold in bankruptcy court

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

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