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Purchase by pizza chain founder is delayed

The judge in the Upper Crust pizza bankruptcy case on Friday delayed the purchase of four of its stores by an investment firm with ties to the chain’s founder, Jordan Tobins, to give a lawyer for former workers more time to fight his alleged involvement in the bid.

Shannon Liss-Riordan, a lawyer for the former Upper Crust employees, had objected to the purchase, arguing that any involvement by Tobins would violate an order in a separate case in Suffolk County that bars him from transferring more than $2,500 of his assets. Judge Henry J. Boroff of US Bankruptcy Court in Springfield on Friday gave Liss-Riordan until Jan. 7 to seek a ruling on the matter from the Superior Court, according to lawyers involved in the case.

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“I’m happy that the court did not approve the sale today. I think it shows we have raised substantial questions,’’ Liss-Riordan said. But, she said she would face “serious pragmatic hurdles” getting a ruling in time.

Tobins’s associates have insisted he is not an investor in the bankruptcy bid. But at the auction last week, a group called UC Acquisition, controlled by a Boston investment firm with ties to Tobins, won the bidding for the four stores — in the South End, Lexington, Wellesley, and Watertown. The investment firm, Quabbin Capital Inc., has said it may hire Tobins as a consultant or employee.

A lawyer for UC Acquisition, Christopher J. Panos, said in a statement, “UC Acquisition is pleased that based on the Trustee’s business judgment the Bankruptcy Court approved the sale of the four store locations to UC Acquisition and is hopeful that the acquisition will be consummated on January 7.”

Upper Crust filed for bankruptcy protection in October, with $3.4 million in debts and owing $850,000 in back wages and damages to employees following a Labor Department investigation.

Beth Healy can be reached at bhealy@globe.com.
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