Rymes Propane & Oil Co. looking to save Fred Fuller jobs

HUDSON – A co-owner of Rymes Propane & Oil Co. said it hopes to retain as many Fuller Oil and Propane Co.’s estimated 100 employees as possible under a tentative deal to buy out Fuller Oil’s assets that will go before a bankruptcy judge for emergency action Nov. 24.

“We don’t know if we will be able to take on all of them. But our goal is to save as many jobs as we can,” Rymes co-owner Thomas Rymes said Monday.

If the tentative agreement is approved, Rymes said the company will likely need to keep on all Fuller employees at least during the transition.

“We’re hoping this will happen as quickly as possible so we can get the oil tanks at Fuller’s facilities full and we can provide the support and financial resources for the employees at Fuller.

They know how to run an oil company. We just want to give them the support they need … so they can do their jobs,” Rymes added.

Head for court

Meanwhile, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office continued to advise Fuller Oil customers who have pre-buy contracts for this heating season to file individual claims against Fuller in U.S. Bankruptcy Court to protect their interests.

“There is no harm in filing a claim no matter what happens in this case. It’s a very easy form of insurance,” Senior Assistant Attorney General Peter Roth said Monday.

Claims can be filed electronically on the U.S. Bankruptcy Court’s web site. Customers should check the box showing they are a priority claim holder, Roth said.

The tentative agreement was reached after marathon overnight negotiations that ended pre-dawn Saturday. The deal calls for Rymes to buy Fuller Oil’s assets and for Sprague Energy, a wholesale fuel provider, to continue to supply the products.

Rymes also agreed to assume and meet all Fuller’s pre-buy contracts and credit balances held by active Fuller customers.

Fuller on Nov. 13 released a list of pre-buy contracts it held with 2,320 customers for a total $5.7 million, Roth said. At the time, Fuller still owed $5.1 million on those contracts, he added.

Budget plan

In addition, Rymes agreed to assume and meet credit balances held by Fuller’s active budget plan customers, Neither Roth nor Rymes on Monday could provide the precise balances on those accounts.

The pending deal also calls for Sprague Energy to drop its $4.7 million claim against Fuller, Roth said.

“They will receive some money in compensation,” Roth said. He said Sprague has “been very cooperative” in helping reach the tentative agreement.

“We want consumers to know that they can count on their supplier to keep warm, that we are going to be there and will be providing the level of service that they’ve been used to,” Thomas Rymes said.

Family-run firm

Rymes and his two brothers and parents are co-owners of the privately-held, family-run company his parents founded in Antrim in 1969. The company provides home heating fuel across all of New Hampshire, eastern Vermont, southwestern Maine and northern Massachusetts.

Sales talks began late Friday afternoon after U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge J. Michael Deasy granted Fuller’s request to use cash receipts from ongoing sales to keep his business operating for 10 days. They ended about 12 hours later at 4:30 a.m.

Fuller Oil filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Nov. 10. The agreement would wind down the bankrupt estate and culminate in the sale of Fuller’s ongoing business to Rymes, state officials have said.

Parties have requested an emergency ruling from the bankruptcy court on Nov. 24.

Meanwhile, Fuller Oil continues to operate as an independent company and customers should direct all inquiries regarding current deliveries and products to Fuller offices, Rymes said.

Frederick J. Fuller, who is CEO and president of Fuller Oil, also will sell about a half dozen parcels of real estate on which Fuller Oil has facilities and storage under the tentative deal.

Fuller owns the real estate through various trusts and leases them to Fuller Oil.

Kathryn Marchocki can be reached a 594-6589 or kmarchocki@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Marchocki on Twitter (@Telegraph_KMarc).