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Ronco bankruptcy auction is OKd

An El Segundo private equity firm is standing by if no bidders emerge.

July 17, 2007|David Colker | Times Staff Writer

If you act now, you can buy Ronco Corp., the home of the Veg-O-Matic, Pocket Fisherman and other infomercial classics.

But there's already a suitor willing to acquire the troubled company's assets for the once-unbelievably low price of $10 million

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Woodland Hills has cleared the way for the company, founded in 1958 by legendary pitchman Ron Popeil, to be sold next month at auction.

If no bidders arise by the end of July, according to the Friday court order, Ronco will go to Marlin Equity Partners, an El Segundo private equity firm.

Since Popeil sold the company in 2005, Ronco's fortunes dropped faster than the price of the Showtime Rotisserie during one of his pitches. When Ronco filed for bankruptcy protection last month, it had $32.7 million in debts and $13.9 million in assets, according to court documents.

Popeil, still owed $11.8 million from when he sold the company, was listed as one of the creditors.

Marlin was identified as the preferred buyer in court documents. It could be paid a breakup fee of $450,000 if outbid.

It was not clear why Marlin wanted to buy Simi Valley-based Ronco. The firm's head of business development, Peter Spasov, declined to comment Monday. How creditors eventually will fare remains unclear.

Web development company Mind Dragon, which had done work for Ronco since 2003, was owed about $38,000 at the time of the bankruptcy filing.

"Last year, we made a total of less than $500,000 in revenue," said Jefferson Nunn, president of Mind Dragon, based in Westlake Village. "So as a percentage, it really hurts us."

Operators might not be standing by, but lawyers are.

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