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TRUSTEE, CREDITORS AGREE TO PTL SALE

TRUSTEE, CREDITORS AGREE TO PTL SALE

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After almost a week of haggling, PTL creditors and the estate's trustee came to an agreement Wednesday in the language of the sale of the religious empire to California faith healer Morris Cerullo.

The proposed sale order will be submitted to Bankruptcy Judge Thurmond Bishop for his signature today.``It has been a long tough process and we're just glad we can present this order to the judge,' court-appointed trustee Dennis Shedd said. ``After the order is signed, then the Cerullo group and I have to work on closing the sale in 90 days.'

Foot-dragging by secured creditors in approving the $45 million sale of jailed evangelist Jim Bakker's PTL has frustrated Cerullo, who repeatedly hinted that he would pull out if the deal wasn't closed quickly.

``I won't be satisfied until we get the whole deal done and can close this case,' Shedd said. ``In this case, I've come to expect the unexpected.'

Last year, Toronto businessman Stephen Mernick failed to close on a $65 million deal to buy PTL with bank financing because he could not get title insurance to the property.

Cerullo already has paid $7 million for PTL's cable television operation.

Cerullo's $45 million offer is for the rest of Heritage USA, which includes the 500-room Heritage Grand hotel, several restaurants, a multimillion dollar water park and more than 1,700 acres of undeveloped land.

Cerullo, who claims millions of followers worldwide, has said he wants to restore the failed religious empire and continue where Jim Bakker failed.

Secured creditors, those who have deeds to parts of the PTL estate as collateral for their investments or loans, stand to gain the most from the sale - about $38.7 million. Non-secured creditors include thousands of so-called lifetime members, who donated $1,000 to Bakker in exchange for promises of vacations at Heritage USA. They stand to get little or nothing from the sale.

Meanwhile, Shedd could make as much as $1.56 million on the sale himself. He said he has not decided what payment he will seek. The judge must approve the court fee.

The bankrupt Heritage USA theme park near Fort Mill sits near the border of North Carolina and South Carolina about 10 miles south of Charlotte. The development was closed in September when Hurricane Hugo swept through the area, damaging several buildings.

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