April 15, 2010
by Gina Hamilton
Coastal Journal staff
BATH — Edward "Ned" Sewall III, former President of M.W. Sewall, was the top bidder in the auction of the company's home energy operations last Wednesday.
Sewall had been competing with established energy firms Downeast Energy, Energy North, Energy USA Propane, as well as TD Bank to resume control of the family business.
More than half the winning bid of $4.76 million will come from the buyout money the firm owed Sewall, who was ousted in an acrimonious family dispute in 2007. Philip and Mark Sewall assumed control.
In the two years since Ned Sewall left the firm, the firm lost approximately $2.34 million, according to court filings, which ultimately led to the bankruptcy filing. Subsequently, a trustee was placed in charge of the reorganization, and in February, trustee Mark Stickney fired Philip and obtained a restraining order against him to keep him from having access to company information or assets.
With the closing of the sale, Ned Sewall will acquire the M.W. Sewall offices in Bath, and bulk fuel storage facilities in West Bath and Edgecomb.
The ClipperMart convenience stores are not part of the deal, and Ned Sewall is not participating in that bid.
Ned Sewall said that the acquisition is just part of a long process of restoring confidence in the business that has been family-owned for over a hundred years.
"In almost every respect, we are starting over," he said. "It's almost like the company will be a new entity.
He expects to return to his role as President in a couple of weeks, when the sale is final.
Sewall said that he believes that Stickney has done an admirable job as trustee. "It was an incredibly hard job just stabilizing the company," he said. "And not long ago, the bankruptcy court didn't see this outcome. But here we are."
Sewall is grateful for the support he has felt from the community during this period of time. "It's been hard," he said. "We haven't really had a chance to just close the door on any phase of this. But all the offers of support have meant a lot."
Ned Sewall said that he will need a good month or so to gear up after he takes over before he can say with any certainty what plans he can make for the future of the company.
"This is a good time to acquire the company," he said. "People's contracts are winding down for the year, and we'll have time to establish good relations with them before they have to sign up again."
The auction for the convenience stores will be held on April 20.