PTL has become a high stakes game for wheelers and dealers betting megabucks on the bankrupt television ministry, but the man who appears to have the best hand plays his cards close to the vest.
George Shinn, owner of the new NBA Charlotte Hornets, has extensive business dealings that range from real estate to oil wells to automobile dealerships to a chain of business colleges. But he shuns intrusions into his personal life."We can't tell you much about him because he doesn't want reporters to know too much about his personal life," said an employee.
Shinn, born poor in the mill town of Kannapolis, N.C., is a multi-millionaire who is not shy about business. Besides automobiles, oil wells and the Hornets, he owns the minor league Charlotte Knights baseball team and Rutledge College, a nationwide chain of business and vocational schools.
To that dossier, he wants to add PTL.
"We're committed to buying PTL as long as we can make it all work," Shinn, 46, said Saturday. "What we plan to do, unless someone comes up with a crazy offer we couldn't possibly match, is to buy the whole thing.
"We want to do a one-shot thing - buy the whole property. That's what we're working on. We think it's worth more that way than if it is divided up and sold off piecemeal."
The bankrupt PTL has been on the auction block since May, when it defaulted on a payment to creditors. Shinn's offer came to light shortly after PTL was offered for sale.
Once a glitzy example of what God's people and their money could do, the television ministry and its Christian Disney World have fallen on hard times since founder Jim Bakker resigned last year over a sex scandal.
Bakker, 48, claims he thought the Rev. Jerry Falwell had befriended him when he handed the Baptist preacher the keys to his Pentecostal kingdom. But now he wants it back and has offered $100 million in borrowed money to buy it.
Falwell, who last year told PTL viewers he intended to stay "until eternity," took the ministry into federal bankruptcy court and then quit over a dispute with the judge.
Shinn, who pledges to maintain a ministry at PTL, wants to turn the rest into a sports and entertainment complex that will provide a home for his baseball and basketball teams in nearby Charlotte. He declined to discuss specifics of his offer.
"Quite frankly, our offer is in writing but we have a clear line that says it is for negotiating purposes only," he said. "I don't want to submit a proposal and have it made public and have everyone analyze it to look for flaws.
"We are watching closely the other offers, including Bakker's," he said, "but if all they're going to do is put up $100 million, and that with strings attached, I think our offer will be better."