M.A.S.H. Diner Deal Revived

Fri, 01/27/2012 - 11:29am
JOHN SEEWER, Associated Press

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — The sale of a hot dog eatery made famous on the TV series "M-A-S-H" is sizzling again.

Representatives of a restaurant group told a judge Thursday that a deal to buy Tony Packo's Inc. has been revived and could be finalized in a few weeks. This comes just weeks after the same group backed out of a sale agreement.

The future of the family-owned business has been up in the air during the last year after descendants of the restaurant's namesake began accusing each other of financial misdeeds and mismanagement. The sale also comes amid theft charges against the founder's grandson.

Family members have waged a yearlong battle over Tony Packo's, a corner bar and grill that grew out of the Great Depression. The restaurant's chili-topped hot dogs continue to be popular, even though "M-A-S-H" ended its run three decades ago.

"If you're ever in Toledo, Ohio, on the Hungarian side of town, Tony Packo's got the greatest Hungarian hot dogs," Jamie Farr's character, Cpl. Max Klinger, said on an episode in 1976.

Farr, a Toledo native, put Packo's on the map when he portrayed a homesick U.S. soldier in the Korean War who longed for the hot dogs and wore dresses in hopes of convincing the Army he was crazy and should be discharged.

Packo's was mentioned in six of the 250 episodes of "M-A-S-H" — notably, in the final episode in 1983, which until last year's Super Bowl was the most-watched TV show in history.

A restaurant group backed by the owner of 26 Burger Kings in the Toledo area now plans to move forward with a $5.5 million deal that a judge first approved in October. It scuttled a deal earlier this month after it said the bank involved in the sale began requiring changes.

David Coyle, an attorney representing the buyers, would not say why the sale is being revived.

He did say that they still plan to keep the founder's grandson involved in a major role within the company, even though he was charged in December with stealing from the family business.

Tony Packo III and another company official have pleaded not guilty to aggravated theft. Authorities have said the charges stem from an 18-month investigation into the alleged theft of about $170,000 from the restaurant chain.

Bob Bennett, who won the bidding for Packo's, said in October that he plans on putting Tony Packo III and his father in charge of the day-to-day operations of the five Packo's outlets around Toledo.

A court-appointed third party appointed to oversee the business during the dispute over ownership has been urging the judge and all sides to act quickly before the business falls deeper into debt.

Even if the sale is completed, the deal still faces more legal hurdles.

Robin Horvath, who acquired half the company when his mother, Nancy Packo Horvath, daughter of the founders, died in 2003, is challenging the sale and has made his own bid for the company.


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