Last Pieces of Far&Wide Near Auction

Most of the bankrupt tour operator's business units are expected to find buyers by mid-November

By: Lisa Jennings

Most of bankrupt Far&Wide Corp.’s business units are expected to find buyers by mid-November, wrapping up the first phase of the largest tour operator bankruptcy in recent history.

At an Oct. 23 hearing, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Mark approved the sale of Adventure Center, Tourlite Zeus, IST Cultural Tours, Journeys Unlimited, and Regina Tours for a total of $195,000. The sales are expected to close within a few weeks.

In addition, Ronan Ryan, a former owner of Brian Moore International Tours, filed a motion to purchase that unit for $75,000, plus some liabilities.

But an auction to consider higher bidders for Brian Moore, a tour operation specializing in Ireland and the United Kingdom, is likely to be scheduled for next week.

And negotiations are continuing on remaining units, including Central Holidays, Spanish Heritage, Prism Holidays, and Intercontinental Travel Co.

Still, Far&Wide President Phil Bakes said it is possible “one or more” units may not find buyers, but the sale of most units will provide significant protection to currently booked customers.

The U.S. Tour Operators Association also announced plans to file a petition in court to give consumers higher priority as creditors in the case. It remains unclear how many consumers who booked trips with the 16 tour brands within Far&Wide have been affected since the Sept. 24 filing for bankruptcy.

Bob Whitley, the tour operator association president, said, “We feel very strongly that the court should put consumers ahead of anybody.”

Far&Wide owes more than $75 million to secured creditors, which typically are given first priority in bankruptcy cases.

Ableco Finance, a subsidiary of Cereberus Capital Management, is owed more than $8 million. The lender has a lien on company assets and, as the most senior creditor, has the highest priority.

At the Oct. 23 hearing, Mark approved the sale of Adventure Center, based in Emeryville, Calif., to First Choice Holdings, a U.K.-based leisure tour operator with operations worldwide, for $70,000. Tourlite Zeus went to a company controlled by former owner Nick Athans for $75,000.

And three divisions went to Michael Goren, the former owner of IST Cultural Tours, for $50,000: IST, Regina Tours, and Journeys Unlimited.

Previously, African Travel, Lion World, Grand European Tours and Swain Australia Tours were sold to Travel Corp.

The Kendall Group also had purchased High Country; and Peter Yeung had purchased Pacific Bestours.