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Bid to block sale of Upper Crust leases rejected

Upper Crust filed for bankruptcy protection in October with at least $3.4 million in debts.

Dina Rudick/Globe Staff/File

Upper Crust filed for bankruptcy protection in October with at least $3.4 million in debts.

A Suffolk Superior Court judge on Monday rejected an attempt to block the sale of leases at four bankrupt Upper Crust restaurants to a private equity firm with ties to the pizza chain’s ousted founder.

UC Acquisition, which plans to work with Upper Crust founder Jordan Tobins, submitted the winning bids at a December auction of leases for the South End, Watertown, Wellesley, and Lexington locations.

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But Shannon Liss-Riordan, an attorney representing former Upper Crust workers in a class-action lawsuit against the company, had argued the sale should be stopped because Tobins was allegedly violating an injunction she obtained last year that prohibited him from transferring assets with a fair market value of $2,500 or more. Liss-Riordan contended UC Acquisition was a front for Tobins, noting that a licensing agreement Tobins has already signed with UC Acquisition allows it to use the Upper Crust name for the restaurants. That agreement, she alleged, constitutes a transfer of assets.

Tobins and UC Acquisition have denied Tobins is using any of his own money.

“UC Acquisition is very pleased with the court’s decision and looks forward to hiring workers and opening the four pizza restaurants,” said Christopher Panos, a lawyer representing UC Acquisition.

Suffolk Superior Court Judge Bonnie H. MacLeod offered no explanation in her denial, according to a copy of the order.

Liss-Riordan said she planned to appeal the decision. An attorney for Tobins declined to comment.

Mark G. DeGiacomo, the trustee overseeing the bankruptcy case, said Monday that he would close on the sale of the leases to UC Acquisition, the last of 10 stores sold off as part of the bankruptcy. The auction for the leases and equipment brought in roughly $1.6 million, according to DeGiacomo, and he plans to investigate other ways to recover more money, including the possibility of making claims against former officers and directors.

Upper Crust filed for bankruptcy protection in October with at least $3.4 million in debts, and about $1.6 million in claims have been filed by government agencies for unpaid meals taxes, along with back wages and damages owed to workers.

Jenn Abelson can be reached at abelson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @jennabelson.
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