Potential bidders for PTL trudged back to U.S. Bankruptcy Court Tuesday amid predictions that Judge Rufus Reynolds would order a piecemeal liquidation for the beleaguered ministry's assets.
"I'm convinced this is the end of the line," said PTL trustee M.C. "Red" Benton. "I think his (Reynolds') patience has been exhausted and I don't think he will go any further."Reynolds rejected two purchase proposals last month in hopes of receiving a better offer for the properties, but his efforts apparently backfired as one of the major bidders dropped out and another radically reduced his offer.
Stephen Mernick, a Toronto, Canada businessman who last month bid $115 million for PTL's luxury hotel, water slide, television studio and 1,700 acres of undeveloped land, offered only $36.25 million for the assets at a court-ordered auction Monday.
The only other bidder was Charlotte broadcasting executive Cy Bahakel, who in partnership with Charlotte Hornets owner George Shinn, made the opening bid of $20 million.
Former PTL executive Sam Johnson, now the president of PTL offshoot Heritage Ministries, tried to make a bid but was prevented from doing so by Benton, who told bidders they must play strictly by the rules.
The rules, imposed last month at an unsuccessful auction conducted by Reynolds in Columbia, called for a $1 million deposit to enter the bidding, a 5 percent downpayment on the total purchase price as soon as the bid was accepted, $50 million in cash within 60 days and the remainder in the form of a secured loan.
But no one was prepared Monday to meet all the terms. Benton said it was unlikely the judge would approve Mernick's offer. Ministry creditors are owed as much as $130 million.