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PTL Assets Sold to Canadian for $65 Million

Associated Press

A judge on Tuesday ordered the assets of the troubled PTL television ministry sold to a Toronto real estate developer for $65 million.

Canadian businessman Stephen Mernick had bid $36.25 million on Monday in a session at Heritage USA headquarters near Ft. Mill, but after meeting Tuesday with attorneys for the ministry and for the creditors he agreed to increase his bid to $65 million.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Rufus Reynolds approved the sale at a hearing in Columbia, just more than a week after PTL founder Jim Bakker and three former associates were indicted by a federal grand jury in North Carolina.

Left by Bakker

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The Heritage USA theme park and accompanying satellite television operation were left behind by Bakker in March, 1987, after it was revealed he had a sexual liaison with church secretary Jessica Hahn and paid her to keep it quiet.

The ministry filed for reorganization under bankruptcy laws in June, 1987, and attempts to sell it had included two auctions before Tuesday’s session. The sessions Monday and in November produced no acceptable bids.

Included in the sale were 2,200 acres of property, a 500-room hotel, a water park, a television studio and a 2,000-seat church.

Reynolds polled major creditors and nearly all approved the sale to Mernick, saying they believed it was the best deal they would get. Mernick would take over the administration and operations 41 days after Reynolds approved the sale and closing would be 60 days later.

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Mernick, an Orthodox Jew, has said he is buying the property as an investment but would consider keeping Heritage USA operating as a Christian theme park.

Other Bidders

Bidders this week also included Michael Karas, president of First Canadian Development Co. of Toronto; Sam Johnson, president of PTL’s religious operations, who was trying to get major contributors to buy back the ministry they built; and Cy Bahakel, owner of 15 television and radio stations.

The offers Monday were far below the total appraised value of PTL’s assets--$92 million to $110 million. In an appraisal dated Aug. 18, Arthur Little & Co. of Atlanta said PTL’s assets would be worth $76 million to $85 million if sold piecemeal.

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The grand jury that indicted Bakker on Dec. 5 is scheduled to reconvene Jan. 17, a source familiar with the investigation said Tuesday in Charlotte. The panel has accused Bakker and former top aide Richard Dortch of diverting more than $4 million in PTL money to support their own “lavish and extravagant” life styles.

Two other former aides, brothers David and James Taggart, each were indicted on six tax charges.


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