Published: Aug. 9, 2011 Updated: 7:52 p.m.
Creditors to Crystal Cathedral: Sell or get sued
By DEEPA BHARATH and RONALD CAMPBELL / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
SANTA ANA – Insiders at the Crystal Cathedral got a blunt message from the creditors Tuesday: Cooperate or get sued.
The creditors filed a plan in U.S. Bankruptcy Court Tuesday afternoon calling for the sale of the Garden Grove landmark for at least $50 million despite the church's recent announcement that the Crystal Cathedral is not for sale.
If the family of founding pastor Robert H. Schuller cooperates, they can help choose the buyer and lease back the cathedral, according to the plan. If they try to block the sale, the creditors will push it through anyway – and then sue church insiders for taking allegedly unjustified pay in the years before the cathedral went bankrupt, the plan says.
The committee consists of creditors who are owed millions, including several long-
The church has several pending offers to consider. The highest offer is now from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange for $53.6 million in cash – up from $50 million. The Diocese announced its new offer Tuesday afternoon.
Crystal Cathedral administrators or representatives could not be reached for comment.
Chapman University, which originally offered $46 million, is now ready to pay $50 million. My Father's House International Church in Norco is also offering $50 million. Chapman's plan includes a leaseback and buyback option as does Oklahoma-
The Diocese is also offering a leaseback plan, but only for two years until the congregation can find an alternative worship space. While the Chapman and Diocese plan are prominently mentioned in the committee's plan, the Norco church's offer is referred to as "inferior."
However, if the cathedral fails to cooperate with the creditors, the committee will not only proceed with the sale with or without a leaseback or buyback option, but it will also sue Schuller family members, the plan says. The committee argues that the Schullers paid certain family members when outside creditors legally should have been paid first.
One example of such a payment, according to the committee's statement, occurred during the sale of the Rancho Capistrano property in 2010 when money was taken from the sale proceeds and put into Robert H. Schuller's pension fund. The committee states that if the cathedral does not cooperate with the sale, it will also start looking into possible "fraudulent" transfers that were made prior to the Oct. 18 Chapter 11 filing.
Crystal Cathedral's leaders and its newly elected board members announced during the July 31 service that their cathedral is not for sale. Sheila Schuller Coleman, senior pastor and oldest of founder Robert H. Schuller's children, announced that her church will start a faith-
However, the sale may be close to over by Thanksgiving, based on the current court schedule. The Diocese wants to close the purchase by Nov. 30 and the creditor committee is scheduling a plan confirmation by Nov. 12. The cathedral has not yet announced any large donations or a plan for the fundraising effort to church elders or congregants.
Several Schuller family members have also filed claims in bankruptcy court – Robert A. Schuller, son of the founder, for $1.4 million; son-
A hearing to address the adequacy of the committee's plan is scheduled for Sept. 14 in the federal courthouse in Santa Ana.
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