Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Erpenbeck items net $147,000



By James McNair
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Strip the contents from a millionaire homebuilder's million-dollar home and, in A. William "Bill" Erpenbeck's case, you end up with $147,000.

That's how much money bidders were willing to pay in Saturday's sale of more than 500 items from Erpenbeck's 9,000-square-foot home in the Summit Lakes development in Crestview Hills. The house itself brought $1.2 million.

STORY ARCHIVE
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The proceeds from the house sale, plus a 10 percent buyer's premium, will be applied to $1.7 million in mortgage debt to four Tristate banks. The $165,000 netted from the contents sale will go into a U.S. Bankruptcy Court kitty to be shared by the former builder's many creditors. In both instances, the auctioneers will be paid first.

Legal claims against the defunct homebuilding company that Erpenbeck once led exceed $100 million. Most of the money is owed to banks that financed its projects in Kentucky and Ohio. Three creditors whose unpaid bills were personally guaranteed by Erpenbeck expanded the legal battle into Bankruptcy Court.

More than 800 people registered to plunder away at Erpenbeck ephemera. A complete set of dining furniture brought $18,000, a Wurlitzer baby grand piano $8,750. Erpenbeck's collection of 30 National Football League helmets was purchased by a single collector for $275 apiece - or $8,250. People paid $100 for plastic trees.

Mark Euton, who helped auction the items for Semple & Associates of Williamsburg, Oho, said there was no predetermined value placed on the Erpenbeck property.

"We don't accomplish much by trying to estimate what it'll sell for. That would be a waste of time and energy," Euton said. "In an absolute auction, it'll sell for what it sells for, regardless of what we think."

Semple will meet with U.S. Bankruptcy Court trustee Mike Baker of Crescent Springs to determine how much of the pot will go toward Erpenbeck's creditors. All items were paid for at Saturday's auction at the airport Radisson Inn.

Euton recalled nothing unusual about the six-hour free-for-all over the Erpenbeck estate. Everything sold, he said, and everything drew competing interest.

"Anytime you have 800 people at an auction, you're going to have a lot of competition - and the competition was keen on just about everything we sold," he said.

J. Louis Karp, owner of Main Auction Galleries in downtown Cincinnati, said the $147,000 was commendable given the absence of antiques, Oriental rugs and valuable art in the house.

"I think from what Semple sold, they did very well," Karp said. "They got top money."

E-mail jmcnair@enquirer.com



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