Judge sets Aug. 20 for auction of Evans Oil assets

The offer to beat is $19 million.

That's the offer from the leading – or stalking horse – bidderfor the assets of Naples-based Evans Oil. It comes from a newly formed company, Florida Petroleum, whose partners include Casey Askar, a Naples resident with a growing food empire.

The offer was outlined at a bankruptcy court hearing in Fort Myers on Thursday. Other interested bidders still have a chance to beat it.

An auction is set for Aug. 20 in a law office in Tampa. Another bidder would have to match the leading offer, plus kick in another $350,000, to have a shot at the local oil company's assets. From there, competing bids – if there are any – would go up by $100,000 increments at the auction.

It's not clear if any other serious bidders will emerge. Only one other interested buyer, Avfuel Corp., a fuel distributor in the Midwest, sent a representative to the hearing on Thursday. Asked if the company will bid, Alan Perlman, the company's Fort Lauderdale attorney, said, "Stay tuned."

Another potential bidder, Atlas Oil Co., headquartered in Taylor, Mich., appears to have lost interest.

What's proposed is a "363 sale," or a sale of all of Evans Oil's assets to Florida Petroleum. There would be no restructuring plan for Evans Oil, but Askar – the owner of Askar Brands, a growing Michigan-based restaurant franchisee – said last week his new petroleum company had a definitive plan to keep the local jobs. He declined further comment after the hearing.

At the hearing, there were questions about whether Randy Long, the current owner and president of Evans Oil, would work for the new company. Florida Petroleum's attorney, Charles Postler, declined to comment.

In court, Postler said his clients were eager to complete the deal. The auction will be held at his law office, Stichter Riedel Blain & Prosser PA.

"We would like to close by the end of this month," Postler told the bankruptcy judge. "We're ready to close today."

Established in 1959, Evans Oil, headquartered off Horseshoe Drive South, distributes bulk oil, gas, diesel and other petroleum products. Its fuel supplies come from ports in Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville.

The oil company's customers include gas stations, convenience stores, marinas, golf courses and car dealerships. Under new ownership in 2001, the company took a new direction focused on growth beyond Southwest Florida — a plan that later seemed to falter.

In a letter to the Daily News last week, Long said he expected to complete a transaction that would preserve local jobs and meet all of the company's obligations to its customers. He said that's been his goal all along.

"I am proud to be the owner of Evans Oil since 2001, and equally proud to be part of the Naples community," he wrote. "I am confident that our outstanding team at Evans Oil will continue to be a strong contributor to the surrounding communities for many years to come."

Connect with Laura Layden at www.naplesnews.com/staff/laura_layden

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