Chicago wholesaler Auster Acquisitions LLC, located on the Chicago
International Produce Market, has apparently closed its doors in mid-January
amid a number of lawsuits claiming non-payment for produce deliveries.
The firm did not return repeated telephone calls from The Produce News
Attorney Mark Amendola of Martyn & Associates in Cleveland, who is
representing C.H. Robinson Worldwide, filed a lawsuit Friday, Jan. 7, for non-
payment of produce supplies, and amended it on Monday, Jan. 10, asking for
both a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to prevent the
firm from doing business without court supervision.
A California law firm, Rynn & Janowski, representing a number of other
distributors, filed a motion to intervene in that case, and a separate lawsuit,
on behalf of fellow Chicago wholesaler Jack Tuchten Wholesale Produce Inc.,
was also filed by Wednesday, Jan. 12.
Auster Acquisitions was open for business on Friday, Jan. 7 but did not open
its doors on Monday, Jan. 10, or the following few days. Speculation was that
the company would not resume operations.
In fact, representatives of the firm had informed some of their creditors in
recent weeks that it would be closing down the operation.
Jason Read of Rynn & Janowski said the lawsuit filings indicate a PACA Trust
produce debt near $2 million and a total debt in excess of $3 million. He said
that a hearing was scheduled on Mr. Amendola's TRO motion the following
day (Jan. 13) and all indications were that it would be granted. He said that
the next course of action would be to determine the firm’s assets and
While it was too soon to know for sure, Mr. Read said that there are
indications that the firm’s accounts receivables and the personal wealth of the
principals could well be sufficient to cover all the PACA Trust debts.
In fact, one of the principal owners, Tom Bastounes, who is the company’s
chief executive officer, is also well known in the entertainment industry as a
movie producer, actor and founder of South Water Pictures. The company’s
most recent movie project is "The Merry Gentleman" starring Michael Keaton,
which was released in 2009.
Auster Acquisitions has a long history, having been founded in 1937 by
brothers Clark and Mike Auster on Chicago’s South Water Market. It was
called The Auster Co. and remained in family hands until Mr. Bastounes
bought it a half-dozen years ago.