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Deal to sell ’M-A-S-H’ hot dog diner falls through

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — The sale of an Ohio hot dog diner made famous on TV’s “M-A-S-H” has fallen through, with the potential buyer saying he will not complete the $5.5 million deal because of bank-required changes.

The news surfaced on Tuesday, the same day that two officials with Tony Packo’s Inc. pleaded not guilty to charges of stealing from the restaurant chain.

Bob Bennett, owner of Bennett Management Corp. and TP Foods LLC, said in a statement that his decision came after Fifth Third Bank required some last-minute changes. The bank, which holds the loan to the chain, insisted on changes that included an increase in the loan interest rate, multiple media outlets reported.

Bennett did not address the loan interest rate in his statement. He did say that the bank had increased requirements for its support of the sale and “interjected itself in negotiations” between TP Foods and a receiver who has had control of the chain since a lawsuit alleged misappropriation of company funds by Tony Packo III, Packo’s executive vice president and grandson of the diner’s founder.

“In the end, the management and financial risks of going forward with the purchase were too great for TP Foods to bear,” Bennett’s statement said.

Bennett told The Blade of Toledo that there were “a lot of conditions I felt that were overreaching, and I just couldn’t go along with it.”

The Associated Press left messages at Bennett’s offices on Tuesday seeking additional comment. Messages also were left at the corporate offices for Packo’s.

Karen Fraker, a spokeswoman for Fifth Third Bank, said the bank had no statement on the deal and does not comment on confidential negotiations.

Bennett’s statement did not include any reference to the recent indictment of Tony Packo III and another company official on charges alleging the theft of about $170,000 from the chain.

Both officials pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to three counts each of aggravated theft. Packo’s attorney in that case declined to comment.

A judge on Dec. 19 approved the deal transferring ownership of the Packo’s chain to Bennett’s group. That approval came just days after Packo was charged with stealing from the family business. Packo had been in line to oversee the daily operations with the new owner.

The diner was referenced in episodes of “M-A-S-H.” Cross-dressing character Cpl. Max Klinger, portrayed by actor and Toledo native Jamie Farr, craved the hot dogs.

The original Packo’s remains a destination and is decorated with “M-A-S-H” memorabilia.

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