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Even in bankruptcy, Basinger lives well while town does not

January 03, 1995|By Carol Marie Cropper | Carol Marie Cropper,New York Times News Service

Main Line won an $8.1 million award. To file an appeal, a bond of $12 million was required, to take account of interest and expenses that might pile up while the case continued. To get the bond, Ms. Basinger would have had to pledge $12 million in assets and pay perhaps $1 million or more. Five days after the verdict, Ms. Basinger instead filed for bankruptcy protection in Los Angeles. She claimed about $5 million in assets and $11 million in liabilities, including the Main Line award. (Ms. Basinger did not respond to requests for an interview for this article.)

Decision reversed

Last September, the California Court of Appeal reversed Main Line's victory because of the way the jury's decision was worded. The court said it could not tell whether the jury wanted the actress or her solely owned professional service company to pay. If her corporation is liable, her assets and income might be outside Main Line's reach. A new trial, then more appeals, will probably take years unless the sides settle.

While the wheels of justice creak and moan, Ms. Basinger's small creditors -- those who arranged her travel plans or repaired her home -- go unpaid. And the folks of Braselton, population 450, learn that getting too involved with an actress can be dangerous.

"If I move, I'll have to move, I reckon," said Mr. Brown, who came to Braselton 52 years ago to pick cotton for the Braselton clan that owned most of the town. The Braseltons sold 1,691 acres to Ms. Basinger and her backers in 1989. Mr. Brown now rents his unpainted, three-bedroom home from the Braselton/Basinger Limited Partnership for $60 a month, but suspects it will be torn down when the property is sold to a new owner. He doesn't know where he will live then.

Ms. Basinger's lifestyle stands in sharp contrast to that of people affected in Braselton, Los Angeles and elsewhere by her bankruptcy and failure as a developer.

Bankruptcy documents refer to her Woodland Hills house, valued at $600,000, as well as to the apartment in Manhattan and house in Amagansett, N.Y., owned by Mr. Baldwin. His properties are not part of the case.

A July 1993 filing outlines Ms. Basinger's expenses, then running at a rate of $43,000 a month. The actress spent $6,100 a month for clothes and $4,000 for "recreation, clubs and entertainment, newspapers, magazines, etc." Another $7,000 went to "pet care and other personal expenses." Her ex-husband, Ron Britton, received $9,000 in alimony.

A later filing trumpeted that Ms. Basinger had slashed her monthly expenses to $31,000 even though her "life style has never been extravagant or lavish." In one filing, though, she reported $592,000 in furniture and clothing and $192,000 of jewelry.

Main Line argued that Ms. Basinger was not entitled to the protection of Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization because she could pay all her debts in full -- if not out of current assets, then through future earnings.

Ms. Basinger, now 41 and starring in the just-released "Ready to Wear," has countered that her high earning years are behind her.

Paying the Main Line claim plus her other debts, with interest, would have been impossible even if she turned over all her after-tax income for the rest of her life, they said. Instead, her payback proposal under Chapter 11 would have combined the sale of some assets with some future earnings.

Last January, with the bankruptcy court seemingly unsympathetic to her efforts to reorganize, Ms. Basinger converted her bankruptcy to a Chapter 7 liquidation.

That meant most of her assets -- including her interest in Braselton -- would have to be sold. Under Chapter 7, Ms. Basinger might get to keep $75,000 or so of her jewelry, furniture and clothing, a $300,000-plus IRA and $50,000 of home equity but perhaps little else. No future earnings, however, would be thrown into the pot under Chapter 7.

The September Court of Appeal decision leaves everything in chaos. With the Main Line judgment reversed, Ms. Basinger could win a new trial and not have to pay the movie company anything, said one of her lawyers, Leslie A. Cohen. In that situation, the bankruptcy case might even be dismissed if her assets once more exceeded liabilities.

Braselton folks seem weary of talk of the actress and her financial turmoil. Newspapers and television programs from as far away as Australia covered her "purchase" of the town.

Braselton residents were excited when Ms. Basinger announced that she was buying their town. There was talk of restoring the turn-of-the-century stores and houses, of making Braselton an historic theme park, of installing a movie studio in the old bank and dry goods building.

Instead, little of note has happened other than the tearing down of some rickety buildings.

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