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New life for EBTH? Potential buyer found for online auction house

Bidder wants Everything but the House assets
Posted at 9:04 AM, Aug 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-23 09:04:30-04

A potential buyer has emerged for the assets of Everything but the House, but it’s still too early to say whether that will be enough to save hundreds of jobs at the online auction company that entered a court-supervised liquidation process a month ago.

An attorney involved in the liquidation process told WCPO that a single bidder is negotiating a purchase agreement that could be finalized by next week. But that attorney, Scott Lepene, declined to identify the bidder or say whether it intends to operate the business after buying its assets.

Everything but the House petitioned a Delaware court on July 23 to initiate a bankruptcy-like process, known as an assignment for the benefit of creditors, after it was unable to raise money to continue its operations. In a memo to employees, company officials with EBTH Inc. explained that a court-appointed assignee would search for a buyer that could pay the company’s debts and continue its operations.

If no buyer emerged, it told employees that 230 jobs would be eliminated at the company’s warehouses in Blue Ash and Linwood.

“It is our hope that a buyer of some or all of the EBTH assets will be identified and will in turn offer employment to all or most EBTH employees,” said the July 23 memo. “However, we cannot say at this point whether there will be such a buyer or offers of employment.”

Lepene is a Cleveland-based partner in the Thompson Hine law firm who represents the court-appointed assignee, known as HBTE (ABC) LLC.

“The goal is to maximize recovery for the creditors,” Lepene said. “We’re pleased that we were able to find a bidder for the assets so that we can try and maximize recovery.”

It’s the latest twist in a tumultuous decade for EBTH, which was founded in 2007 to sell merchandise from estate sales to consumers all over the globe. The company grew to more than 1,000 employees in 29 cities by 2017 and claimed to reach revenue of $90 million.

That’s when the downsizing began. Former CEO Andy Nielsen was replaced by board member Scott Griffith, who relocated the company to Over-the-Rhine and executed three rounds of layoffs. In 2019, the company talked to more than 100 investors about financing its ongoing operations, according to the July 23 memo to employees. But those efforts ended July 23 when “a potential lead investor” ended its conversations with the company, forcing the liquidation process.

The memo said three results were possible from the court-supervised assignment process. The assets could be sold to a buyer who continues to operate under the EBTH brand. The buyer could operate under a different name. Or the company would cease to exist if no buyer was found.

A spokesman for EBTH declined to comment on the results of the liquidation process.