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Published: Thursday, 12/30/2010

Packo family dispute over chain soon may end

The heated family spat over control of Tony Packo's Inc. appears to be heading toward resolution.

Executive Vice President Tony Packo III and his father, President Tony Packo Jr., who jointly own 50 percent of the business, submitted the only bid in an auction for ownership of the company on Dec. 17. Terms of the bid were not disclosed, and the transaction needs approval from Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge Gary Cook before it is finalized.

Chief Operating Officer Robin Horvath, a relative who owns half of the company and has been battling the Packos for control of the business, did not submit a bid for the business, despite agreeing Dec. 7 to terms of the closed auction, Tony Packo III said.

Mr. Packo said he and his father plan to continue operating the restaurant that was started in 1932 by Hungarian hot-dog creator Tony Packo, his and Mr. Horvath's grandfather.

"We have every intention to keep Tony Packo's the way it was, and take the best of that and move forward," Mr. Packo said.

The auction was conducted by Skutch Co. Ltd., an Ottawa Hills turnaround firm managed by Steve Skutch. He was appointed by the court in August as a receiver in the Tony Packo's case.

Mr. Skutch's appointment came after Fifth Third Bank filed a foreclosure action that same month because the business missed payments on $2.7 million in loans.

Neither Mr. Horvath, his attorneys or Mr. Skutch could be reached for comment Wednesday.

It's unclear what role Mr. Horvath will have, if any, in the company if the Packos' bid to take over the firm is approved. Mr. Packo declined to comment about his cousin.

The pending sale of Toledo's landmark restaurant seems to bring a relatively calm end to a legal battle that has been roiling for months.

Mr. Horvath sued his relatives in July, alleging they withheld company financial records that needed to be examined to explain questionable disbursements of company funds. A filing at that time requested that the records be released, and that company stock shares held by Tony Packo III and his father be sold to Mr. Horvath for $100,000.

The stock sale demand fell under a dispute mechanism that family members devised in 2002 to dispense with lawsuits filed then after a family quarrel that involved the Packos versus Mr. Horvath and Nancy Packo Horvath, Mr. Horvath's mother and the sister of Tony Packo, Jr.

The company has about 200 employees at its five area locations, and has annual sales between $8 million and $10 million.

Court documents show Mr. Skutch received "unsolicited contacts" during the last several months from local and national entities interested in buying the business' assets.

The parties were told that no decision had been made at that time regarding a sale of the company, which Mr. Packo said Wednesday is "profitable."

He and his father plan to "continue the legacy" of the restaurant that put Toledo on the map for Hungarian-style hot dogs and sauce.

"We're really excited and hopeful that this company and the employees will be around for along time," Mr. Packo said.

Contact Sheena Harrison at: sharrison@theblade.com or 419-724-6103.



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