Image: Tony Packo's
John Seewer  /  AP
The dogs at Tony Packo's were favorites of cross-dressing Cpl. Max Klinger on the hit TV show.
updated 10/6/2011 6:09:04 PM ET 2011-10-06T22:09:04

A restaurant whose hot dogs were made famous by cross-dressing Cpl. Max Klinger on the TV series "M*A*S*H" has new owners, but it will stay within the family after a judge settled a feud on Thursday over the ownership of Tony Packo's.

A private restaurant group backed by Tony Packo Jr. and his son won the bidding for the restaurant chain whose hot dog sauce and pickles are sold in stores across the nation.

The decision ends a yearlong battle over Tony Packo's, a corner bar and grill that grew out of the Great Depression. The restaurant's chili-topped hot dogs continue to please fans even after the iconic TV show ended its run three decades ago.

"If you're ever in Toledo, Ohio, on the Hungarian side of town, Tony Packo's got the greatest Hungarian hot dogs," Jamie Farr's character, Cpl. Max Klinger, said on an episode in 1976.

Farr, a Toledo native, put Packo's on the map when he portrayed a homesick U.S. soldier in the Korean War who longed for the hot dogs and wore dresses in hopes of convincing the Army he was crazy and should be discharged.

Packo's was mentioned in six of the 250 episodes of "M*A*S*H" — notably, in the final episode in 1983, which until last year's Super Bowl was the most-watched TV show in history.

Descendants of the restaurant's namesake this summer began accusing each other of financial misdeeds and mismanagement and made their own bids to buy the company. The restaurant's lender foreclosed on its loans, and a judge put a third party in charge of the restaurant while the drama played out in court.

Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Gene Zmuda said Thursday that he repeatedly urged both sides to work out their differences, but that it became clear they were "willing to lose everything as long as the other side gets nothing."

In the end, that didn't happen.

Packo Jr. and his son initially made their own offer for the company, but they dropped their bid just before the court hearing Thursday, announcing they were backing a bid by a restaurant group that owns 26 Burger Kings in the Toledo area.

The judge then accepted an offer from TP Foods LLC to buy Packo's for $5.5 million in cash. Winning bidder Bob Bennett said he plans on putting Packo Jr. and his son in charge of the day-to-day operations of the five Packo's outlets around Toledo.

"I wanted to save the brand," Bennett said. "It's 75 years of tradition."

Tony Packo Jr. exhaled several times after the decision was announced. "It was very important to continue the legacy" said his son, Tony Packo III.

Losing out was Robin Horvath, who acquired half the company when his mother, Nancy Packo Horvath, daughter of the founders, died in 2003.

Horvath made a separate bid for the company after suing Packo Jr. and his son in July, accusing them of blocking him from looking at company financial records after he began questioning them about company spending.

He left the court without commenting.

The original Packo's remains a destination and is decorated with "M*A*S*H" memorabilia, including glass-encased hot dog buns autographed by celebrities ranging from Bing Crosby to Alice Cooper.

It's still common to see out-of-state license plates in the parking lot and visitors snapping photos inside and out.

The restaurant first opened in 1932, when Tony Packo and his wife got a $100 loan from relatives.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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