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Getting a piece of Pearlman

The bankruptcy auction of the music producer's empire produces some hits.

By HELEN HUNTLEY
Published June 13, 2007


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ORLANDO - Music producer Lou Pearlman's high-backed black leather La-Z-Boy was the most popular seat in the house as curious bidders streamed into his office for a preauction inspection Tuesday morning.

They plopped down in his chair, pawed through his desk drawers, fingered his crystal paperweights and admired the gold and platinum records lining his office walls, silent testimony to the success his boy bands once enjoyed.

Then the serious bidders won the right to take some of it home with them. The remnants of Pearlman's entertainment empire went on the block by order of the bankruptcy court, and thousands of items were up for grabs. The auction offered furniture and office equipment, several vans, a boat and thousands of CDs, posters and awards from 'NSync, the Backstreet Boys, O-Town, C Note, Aaron Carter, Brooke Hogan and other artists whose careers passed through Pearlman's hands.

About 400 registered to bid, including bargain hunters, resellers, memorabilia collectors, young women who grew up idolizing the boy bands and the just curious.

Bankruptcy trustee Soneet Kapila said he was pleased by the turnout, which was so large that the bidding moved out of Trans Continental's offices into the atrium at Church Street Station. The amplified sound created a headache-producing din as it echoed through the atrium, but many bidders stood for hours, took an occasional break, then came back for more.

Final results aren't yet available, but even the most successful auction is not expected to make much of a dent in Pearlman's debts, which are approaching $500-million. He is accused of defrauding about 1, 800 investors in one of the largest investment frauds in Florida history.

Tom Vravis will be taking the best of Pearlman's office furniture home with him. He bid $5, 000 for the elaborately carved executive desk Seven Seas by Hooker, credenza, hutch, entertainment center and chair.

"I'm going to set up his office in my living room, " he said. "Maybe there's a secret compartment in the desk with a little stash of diamonds in it."

Vravis, who sells kitchen cabinets in Orlando, said he thinks he got a great deal. "I'm sure he paid a lot more than that. Or the poor people who invested with him paid for it."

Tom Yuelling of Orlando bought Pearlman's gold sofa, love seat and chairs for his daughter for $1, 050.

But not everything was a great deal.

"It's crazy, " said Philip Arnold of Orlando, disappointed at being outbid for a lava lamp that went for $100. "They're paying over retail for this stuff."

Smiley Thurston bid $1, 400 for the framed key to the city of Orlando that Pearlman was presented with three years ago. "It goes with the other things I'm getting, " said Thurston, who said he has a room full of music memorabilia in his Deltona home.

Eamon Mooney got outbid for the Louis J. Pearlman signature nameplate that went as part of a group of desk items for $400.

"That would have been a great conversation piece, " said Mooney, whose main mission was buying office furniture for a real estate office he plans to open in St. Cloud in Osceola County.

Gold and platinum records for Pearlman's boy bands were going from $60 to $2, 200, much to the disappointment of some fans who were hoping for bargains.

"We thought that maybe we could do a little Christmas shopping, but I didn't realize it would be such a big draw, " said Jenn Russo of Winter Park.

The prices didn't deter Shastine Pavao, who said she lived down the street from Pearlman's palatial Italianate home in Windermere and knew some of his boy band members. Pavao, who said she is a real estate investor, paid $1, 200 apiece for two 'NSync platinum records early in the bidding and was accumulating others as the auction progressed. Pearlman's house is listed for sale for $12.5-million.

"When they first started, I was all about 'NSync, " she said. "They're just very different guys, down to earth, humble and not too bad looking either."

'NSync band member Joey Fatone's sister, Janine, said she was there with instructions from their mother to buy some of his memorabilia.

Bidders held up gray cards with their bidding IDs on them. "Mr. Box, " the ID used by Tom Beas and his son, Andy, was a frequent winner.

"I'm after the Chihuly glass and if they'd sell the tiles in the ceiling (of Pearlman's office), I'd buy them too, " said Tom Beas, who lives in Kissimmee. He got the five-piece set of glass art by artist Dale Chihuly for $18, 000.

Several hours into the auction, a small group traipsed out to a parking lot with auctioneer Harry Stampler to bid on Pearlman's 22-foot jet boat and two older Chevy vans. The vans, which wouldn't start, went for $4, 100 and $1, 400, while the boat brought $11, 000.

Orlando lawyer Clay Townsend, who has represented clients against Pearlman, won the boat as rain began to fall. "I actually need a boat this summer, " he said. But he said he has no idea what he'll do with the gold record plaques he bought.

The auction was supposed to include two water scooters, but the Sea Doo Waverunners were stolen from the dock behind Pearlman's home. Kapila, the trustee, said they were discovered missing Monday.

Pearlman, 52, missed all the excitement. He left the country in January, with his whereabouts unknown.

Helen Huntley can be reached at hhuntley@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8230. Read more about Lou Pearlman and investment fraud at http: //blogs.tampabay.com/money

Fast Facts:

Up for bid

Some of the items sold at auction:

Daffy Duck figurine: $30

Lou Pearlman framed "Who's Who" certificate: $100

Orlando Predators helmet: $225

Four sets of remote-controlled drapes with motors: $250

Backstreet Boys Everybody platinum CD: $450

Lou Pearlman framed key to the city of Orlando: $1, 400

Sea-Doo 22-foot Islandia jet boat: $11, 000

Dale Chihuly glass art five-piece set: $18, 000

Prices are before 10% buyer's premium and sales tax.

[Last modified June 13, 2007, 01:32:10]


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