Settlement moves Copia one step closer to revival

  • The Copia Center which houses the new restaurant The Bistro @ Copia in Napa during its first day of operation on Thursday May 22, 2008. The were open but still in the process of setting up as they will soon add art and a flat screen to the wall behind the counter. Scott Manchester / The Press Democrat

The groups feuding over Copia, the bankrupt wine center in downtown Napa, said Friday they?ve settled their differences, paving the way for the $78 million facility to reopen in the future.

?It?s not going to happen in a month, two months or six months,? Copia attorney John MacConaghy told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Alan Jaroslovsky in Santa Rosa on Friday.

Now, a Napa community group that wants to revive Copia must raise the funds to acquire it, MacConaghy said.

Copia, also known as the American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts, closed in November after running out of cash. The nonprofit founded by the late Napa vintner Robert Mondavi lost more than $5 million a year since opening in 2001, according to bankruptcy filings.

Under the agreement announced Friday, the 12-acre complex on the Napa River will become property of Bank of New York Mellon, Copia?s largest creditor. The bank will hold the property in trust for Copia bondholders.

Copia?s bond insurer, ACA Financial Guaranty Corp., can then negotiate with groups interested in purchasing the property, MacConaghy said.

As part of the agreement, Copia has dropped plans to sue the bank and bond insurer for allegedly mishandling a $71 million refinancing of the center in 2007.

However, a creditor group still is pursuing the fraud case in federal court.

Louis Cisz, attorney for Bank of New York and ACA, confirmed the settlement with Copia on Friday. The plan announced Friday still must be approved by creditors and the bankruptcy court.

A Napa group, the Coalition to Preserve Copia, is proposing to acquire the property and use it for a conference center, visitor center, restaurant and wine education facility.

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