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LeNature’s Phoenix plant to close |

LeNature’s Phoenix plant to close

| Monday, November 6, 2006 12:00 a.m

The court-appointed custodian managing LeNature’s Inc. will close the Phoenix plant, according to a filing Monday in U.S. District Bankruptcy Court in Pittsburgh.

The Latrobe-based facility will remain open and was in operation Monday.

The custodian formally filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition Monday listing more than $100 million in debt and less than $10,000 in assets, according to court documents. A more detailed breakdown will be filed later.

Bankruptcy Court Judge M. Bruce McCullough Friday gave the custodian permission to convert the case from Chapter 7 — liquidation — to Chapter 11 to give the custodian a chance to restructure the firm which is headquartered in Latrobe and produces bottled water, fruit drinks and tea.

McCullough will hold a hearing Tuesday on a series of emergency motions that, if approved, would give the custodian the authority to continue paying wages, salaries and benefits for employees.

When the custodian, Kroll Zolfo Cooper Inc. took over the company last month, it told employees that the financial stability of the company would not be affected by the takeover, according to a question and answer sheet distributed to employees.

Kroll also said there were no plans to file for Chapter 11.

“The current legal issues and management changes should not have an impact on the fundamental strength of the business,” wrote KZC officials.

The secured creditors include George K. Baum Capital Partners of Kansas City, Mo., S.W. Pelham Fund of Hartford, Ct., and Podlucky, who owns 200,000 shares of stock.

Among the largest creditors is Manufacturers & Traders Trust Co., trustee of the debt, which is owed more than $155 million, according to the bankruptcy petition.

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