Port Tampa Bay will formally jump into the bidding for control of Channelside Bay Plaza.
The port owns the ground underneath the complex, but not Channelside itself. That complex is tied up in a complicated bankruptcy process that will soon reach the stage of auctioning off control of the long-struggling retail and entertainment complex.
The port's governing board on Tuesday authorized staffers and its chairman to start off with a $5.75 million bid, and then go up from there. “Whatever it takes, was the key phrase used,” said spokesman Andy Fobes.
The port will jump into a complex bidding procedure run by lawyers for the Irish Bank Resolution Corp., the now defunct bank entity that holds a mortgage on the retail shops, and holds a lease ever since it foreclosed on the now-departed Channelside mall operator. Both the mortgage and the lease are scheduled for an auction on July 2.
Already, bidders had to submit preliminary offers by June 2, but their identities and bids were private. Although not unexpected, the port's vote on Tuesday publicly revealed them as a bidder in the process. The $5.75 million figure doesn't come from a vacuum. That's the amount the Port initially offered to the IBRC several months ago. But when rival suitors went to court and claimed they had $7 million for Channelside, the judge handling the bankruptcy case of IRBC ordered another round of bidding.
Lawyers involved in the case now plan to collect results of the July 2 auction and submit them to the court that night or the next day. Then the court plans a July 15 hearing to review the results and potentially give a ruling on which bidder will receive control of the property. Price alone won't win the day, as bankruptcy judges generally seek what's known as the “highest and best” offer, meaning they'll also consider which party has the wherewithal to close on a deal quickly and do something useful with the asset being sold.
If the port ends up winning the auction, representatives would still need to come back to the port's board to authorize a final payment.