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MARSHEL v. AFW FABRIC CORP.

June 25, 1975

Arnold Marshel, Plaintiff
v.
AFW Fabric Corp., et al.; Guy Michaels, Plaintiff v. Alvin Weinstein, et al. Defendants; Jesse Krause, Plaintiff v. Concord Fabrics, Inc., et al.; Barry L. Swift, Plaintiff v. Concord Fabrics, Inc., Defendant


MacMahon, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MACMAHON

MACMAHON, District Judge.

Plaintiffs in these four related actions move, pursuant to Rule 65, Fed. R. Civ. P., to enjoin preliminarily the proposed merger between Concord Fabrics, Inc. (Concord) and AFW Fabric Corp. (AFW). Plaintiff Michaels also seeks leave to file an amended complaint. Defendants move for an order consolidating the four actions for all purposes, appointing a general or liaison counsel for plaintiffs, and staying Concord shareholders from commencing any additional actions based on the proposed merger.

 These class and derivative actions arise out of the proposed merger of defendants Concord and AFW. Concord, a converter of fabrics, was, until July 1968, a private corporation owned by defendants Alvin and Frank Weinstein and their families. At that time, 300,000 shares of Concord stock were sold publicly for $15 per share, and in June 1969 the Weinsteins sold 200,000 shares for $20 per share, also pursuant to a public offering. Since then, Concord stock has been listed on the American Stock Exchange.

 Concord's earnings in 1968 and 1969 were over $2,000,000 per year, a record level, but its earnings declined sharply in the following two years and have been only moderate ever since. Concord paid dividends from 1968 through the first quarter of 1970. Since then, no dividends have been paid.

 Concord stock was selling at a high of $25 per share in early 1969 but has steadily declined until it dropped to a low of about $1 per share in late 1974. This decline is attributable to a discontinuance of the company's dividends, declining earnings and general stock market decline. Through March of this year, the price of Concord stock never rose to $3 per share.

 In January of this year, the Weinsteins initiated a plan to return Concord to the private ownership of the Weinstein family. As the first step toward this objective, the Weinsteins organized AFW, and, on February 5, 1975, they transferred 1,226,549 Concord shares, representing 68% of the total outstanding stock to AFW. In exchange for the Concord shares, the Weinsteins received 100% of AFW's stock.

 On February 6, 1975, AFW made a tender offer of $3 per share for the publicly-held Concord stock. The Weinsteins planned to follow this tender offer with the merger of AFW into Concord in April 1975. All shareholders remaining at the time of the merger were to receive $3 per share for their Concord shares. The net result of the tender offer and merger would be to return Concord to the private ownership of the Weinstein family.

 Concord's board of directors arrived at the $3 per share valuation of Concord's stock following an opinion by the investment banking and brokerage firm of Shearson Hayden Stone, Inc. (Shearson). Shearson advised Concord that $3 was the fair and equitable value of a Concord share.

 On February 28, 1975, the first of these related shareholder actions *fn1" was filed. Plaintiff, in that purported class and derivative action, charges, in essence, that defendants engaged in a scheme and conspiracy to defraud Concord stockholders into selling their shares at an unfair price, in violation of Sections 10(b), 13(d), 14(a), 14(d) and 14(e) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. §§ 78j(b), 78m(d), 78n(a), 78n(d) and 78n(e), various SEC rules and regulations and New York common law. It is alleged that the offering statement issued in connection with the tender offer contained misleading statements and omitted material facts. The derivative claim alleges that defendants defrauded Concord and its shareholders, breached fiduciary duties owed them and wasted corporate assets. Plaintiff seeks, inter alia, to enjoin the tender offer.

 The Weinsteins foresaw attempts to enjoin the merger as well as the tender offer, and since the merger alone would accomplish the results they sought, they withdrew the tender offer on March 3, 1975 to avoid unnecessary legal expenses. The Weinsteins' predictions were accurate, for legal proceedings aimed at the merger were not long in coming. The first of these actions *fn2" was filed on March 3, 1975, and two others soon followed. *fn3"

 The material allegations of the Michaels and Krause cases are similar. Both of these purported class actions charge violations of Sections 10(b) and 14 of the 1934 Act and common law. Like the Marshel action, their thrust is that defendants are defrauding Concord stockholders into selling their shares at an unfair price. They also alleged that the offering statement contained certain misstatements and omissions and seek, inter alia, to enjoin the tender offer and merger. The Michaels action, unlike any of the others, names Shearson as a party defendant.

 The last of these four actions, Swift v. Concord Fabrics, Inc., a puntative class and derivative action, grounds jurisdiction on diversity of citizenship and alleges only violations of New York law. It alleges, in essence, that defendants have conspired, in breach of their fiduciary duties, to eliminate Concord's public shareholders by giving them less than adequate value for their shares under the merger of Concord and AFW. The derivative claim charges defendants with wasting Concord's assets and breaching fiduciary duties owed the corporation and its shareholders. Plaintiff seeks, inter alia, to enjoin the merger.

 Plaintiffs move for preliminary injunctions on the ground that the proposed merger will violate Sections 10(b) and 14 of the 1934 Act and New York law. *fn4" They contend, essentially, that the merger should be enjoined because it serves no legitimate corporate purpose but is intended only to eliminate public shareholders by giving them inadequate compensation for their shares. As such, they claim, the merger is a device, scheme and artifice to defraud, in violation of Rule 10b-5.

 In order for plaintiffs to prevail on their motions for preliminary injunctions, they must demonstrate either a combination of probable success and the possibility of irreparable injury or that they have raised serious questions going to the merits and that the balance of hardships tips sharply in ...


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