Coleman remnants liquidated at auction

Computers, furniture, bar sold for creditors

June 24, 1999|By Sean Somerville | Sean Somerville,SUN STAFF

Monica Coleman's dream was sold in dozens of pieces yesterday and carted out of a Pulaski Highway warehouse.

Gone after an auction of Coleman Craten LLC's belongings were a 40-foot U-shaped mahogany bar, about 100 telephones, seven leather chairs, three leather sofas, 16 computers and an assortment of chairs, desks, tables and other computer equipment.

When it was over, the auction had raised about $90,000 for the bankrupt company's creditors, a group including former employees, investors and unpaid contractors who are owed almost $6 million.

"This was a good concrete step toward turning some of this stuff into cash," said Lori Simpson, the trustee who is liquidating the holdings of the company and Coleman herself as part of Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings.

Simpson said she had expected the office furnishings to sell for between $60,000 and $70,0000, but that a strong turnout of more than 300 bidders boosted the amount.

Simpson wouldn't set a timetable for completing the case or estimate how much creditors would get. She said the search for both assets and creditors is continuing. The case has generated 95,000 pages of documents. "We have to parse through all that," Simpson said.

Both the firm and Monica Coleman, who founded the company with John G. Craten, filed for bankruptcy protection last month after her plan to offer investment services in a posh downtown club unraveled. Eleven lawsuits have been filed against the company and Coleman. Investors alone are seeking the return of $3 million.

Richard A. Coleman Sr., Monica Coleman's husband, who attended the auction, said he was there to retrieve personal belongings that were not included in the auction. Through attorneys, the Colemans have declined to comment on Coleman Craten's financial trouble.

"We have been advised not to talk to you," he said. "There's definitely another side [to the story] and it will eventually come out," he added.

Jeannine Golpira, a creditor who is suing Coleman, also showed up. Golpira closed her bar and restaurant, the Gavel, near the University of Maryland Law School in downtown Baltimore, and transferred her liquor license to run the bar at Coleman Craten.

`Heartbreaking' losses

She said yesterday that she was at the auction to fetch a few of her things that might otherwise have been sold -- bar stools, some chairs, antique wooden pews, a couple of tables, a microwave oven and a toaster.

"This is old stuff I had in my restaurant," she said, adding that the move to Coleman Craten has cost her her last penny. "It's heart-breaking."

Yesterday, the army of bidders cared less about creditors than about the items for sale -- items that were moved from a renovated and grand old building at 7 E. Redwood St. to a one-story warehouse with a corrugated steel roof.

Bidders, some talking on cellular phones and others testing the keyboards of computers, swarmed from item to item, following Paul T. Sobwick, the Atlantic Auctions Inc. auctioneer who ran the affair.

In a sharp round of bidding, Charlie Burman snatched up four Sharp television sets -- three 27-inch and one 26-inch -- for $800. He said the sets would be perched in his son's bar and restaurant, the Waterfront Beach and Yacht Club, in Fells Point.

Burman said the auction yielded good, but not great, deals because publicity about Coleman Craten had attracted bidders and raised prices. "Normally, when there's an auction like this, you get a quarter of the number here," he said. "A lot of people are out because of the quality of the stuff. Monica knew how to spend other people's money."

Ed John, a project manager for Allied Contractors, a construction company, bought 11 computers -- two for $875, four for $725 and five for $550. "We need 'em," John said before moving along to the next table.

The bidding climbed quickly for Coleman Craten's telephone system -- a system that was hardly used because the company's employment never rose above 20. The system, which cost about $140,000 new, was sold for $34,000 to Todd Yuffee, president of Capital Phones Inc., a Silver Spring company that buys and sells used phone equipment.

"It's one of Lucent's best products," he said. "It's a nice large system, and there are only a few in the secondary market."

Besides, he said, "I already have a buyer for it," and "some of it's still in boxes."

The leather furniture, which appeared to attract the most attention, went for about $8,000.

Montel Hill, the president of H&R Consulting, which provides financial services to churches and nonprofit groupss, bought four leather chairs for $2,800 -- a discount considering that one of the chairs could sell for $3,000, he said. "These chairs can go for quite a bit."

Hill said his company was considering a move from 100 Light St. to Coleman Craten's vacated headquarters. "I want decor that will suit the space," Hill said.

Selling the bar

After a few more items, Sobwick wandered over to the bar, the huge U-shaped mahogany bar with the hardly used beer tap and a long brass foot rail.

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