Viansa sold for $40.5 million

  • 5/25/2006: E1: Visitors make their way to the tasting room at Viansa Winery in Sonoma. 360 Global has struggled since buying Viansa in 2005, and it now appears that creditors are looming because of the Napa-based company's failure to repay its debts.

    6/28/2005: E1: Viansa is expected to help 360 Global increase its total production from 150,000 cases a year to more than 500,000 cases in three years.

    PC: Photo by Mark Aronoff---Visitors head for the tasting room at Viansa Monday afternoon.

Viansa, the popular Sonoma Valley winery built by Sam and Vicki Sebastiani, was sold out of bankruptcy to its largest creditor today for $40.5 million.

Laurus Master Fund, an offshore hedge fund, was the only bidder for the 160-acre Tuscan-style winery during an auction in a Reno, Nev., bankruptcy court.

?In a sense, this was anti-climatic,? said David Honig, one of the attorneys representing about 400 unsecured creditors in the case. ?The damage was done a long time ago.?

Many creditors will receive as little as 2 or 3 cents on the dollar, said Honig, whose San Francisco firm represents the committee of unsecured creditors.

The sale was not unexpected because the investment firm claimed to be owed at least $55 million, more than many believed the winery was worth.

360 Global Wine Co., which purchased the winery in 2005 using money from Laurus, paid $31 million.

One creditor, Fresno-based vineyard appraiser Tony Correia, said he thinks Viansa can recover despite the mismanagement it has suffered since being owned by 360 Global.

?I think in the right hands, with a competent manager, that operation should be highly profitable,? said Correia, who is owed $5,000 for appraisal services. ?You have an exquisite tourist center there.?

The winery is located on a scenic bluff at the southern gateway to the Sonoma Valley. It is surrounded by wetlands, many of which were created by Sam Sebastiani, an avid outdoorsman.

The winery is a popular stop for tourist buses, which drive sales in the deli and membership in the winery?s wine club.

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