Black Bear Bottling files for receivership

Company has more than $10 million in liabilities

Beer bottles

Oak Creek-based Black Bear Bottling Group LLC has filed for receivership in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, leaving the future employment of the company’s 67 employees in jeopardy.

Beer bottles

The company indicated in court documents it has approximately $10.6 million in liabilities, including $5.2 million in debt with First Bank of Highland Park.

In contrast, the company listed $9.4 million in assets, but estimated the fair market value of those assets would be “significantly less” than the book value it reported. The company listed $6.8 million in fixed assets, including equipment and machinery.

First Bank of Highland Park has a valid lien against “virtually all” of the company’s assets, but has also agreed to a financing deal to keep the business operating while the business is in receivership. That deal runs through the end of September unless it is extended in writing.

Court appointed receiver Seth Dizard did not respond to an email seeking comment on the company’s future.

The real property the business operates on is owned by Triwire LLC and Triwire 2 LLC. Court records indicate Black Bear’s lease of the facility runs through the end of September, although Peter J. Caruso is listed as the registered agent for both those facilities. The Caruso family has owned and operated Black Bear since 1961.

The company was founded in 1920 and currently handles packaging of carbonated and non-carbonated finished beverages on glass, plastic and bag-in-box lines.

Black Bear was based in St. Francis for years and moved to Oak Creek in 2001. As recently as last year the company was proposing to expand its facilities at 9770 S. 20th St. The proposal would have added 65,000 square feet to the company’s 48,000-square-foot warehouse and office with plans for another 39,000 square feet in the future.

In addition to its receivership filing, the company is involved in two open cases. One involves a nearly $30,000 claim by Grunau Co. Inc., which says it wasn’t paid for certain services. The other was filed by Brookfield-based staffing firm QPS Employment Group Inc. QPS alleges it is owed more than $275,000 for supplying staffing services to Black Bear, but the company has contended it was overcharged and that there are “numerous instances of plaintiff’s supplied personnel causing problems with BBBG’s operations.”

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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