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Gruet settles suit over failed winery bid for $2.5 million

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The CapRock Winery of Lubbock, Texas, was ultimately sold at a bankruptcy auction. (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)

The CapRock Winery of Lubbock, Texas, was ultimately sold at a bankruptcy auction. (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)

Albuquerque winemaker Laurent L. Gruet, who defaulted more than two years ago on a bid to buy the CapRock Wine Co. in Texas out of bankruptcy, has agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle a lawsuit in the case.

The settlement – a little more than half the $3.9 million Gruet was ordered to pay after his $6.5 million bid for the Woodrow Road winery fell through in 2011 – is the last major step toward closing out the Lubbock winery’s bankruptcy and liquidation, the Lubbock Avalanche Journal reported Friday.

Concluding the bankruptcy would have no effect on the winery’s current owners.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert L. Jones agreed on Thursday to the proposed settlement between Laurent L. Gruet and the bankruptcy estate, which likely will be finalized next week when it is presented to a federal bankruptcy judge in Albuquerque on Monday.

Bankruptcy trustee Max Tarbox said the winery’s major creditors did not object to the settlement. According to court documents, PlainsCapital Bank is the largest creditor in the bankruptcy and is owed about $4 million.

In April 2012 Jones ordered Gruet to pay $3.9 million plus attorney’s fees and interest to cover the losses incurred after the winemaker bid $6.5 million to buy the Woodrow Road winery, but failed to come up with the money to close the deal.

A second auction was held and San Antonio-based fast food franchise magnate Jim Bodenstedt bought the winery for $2.5 million and gave it to his wife, Cathy, to operate. The Bodenstedts have since sold the winery.

Tarbox retained the law firm of Mullin, Hoard, Brown to pursue the case in litigation that led to New Mexico and Gruet’s native France.

Ultimately liens were filed against Laurent Gruet’s shares of the family’s winery operations in Albuquerque and vineyard and winery interests in France.

Tarbox said he expects the money to come quickly from Gruet’s business connections in France because “they don’t want me to become part owner of any of their companies.”

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