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Robert Trigaux

Princess Diana dresses hit auction house today to cover debts of bankrupt Tampa owner



maureenrorechdunkel2003stefanieboyar.jpgWake up and good morning. If you're in a nostalgic mood for Diana, Princess of Wales, and your checking account is bulging, this could be your lucky day. Toronto-based auction house Waddington's today will auction 14 of her elegant dresses to help cover debts incurred by Tampa's Maureen Rorech Dunkel, who bought the dresses in better economic times (and just before Diana died in a car crash) but has since declared bankruptcy. (Dunkel photo by Stefanie Boyar, St. Petersburg Times, 2003.)

Here's Waddington's display of the 14 dresses it will auction later today.

Dunkel had big philanthropic plans with the collection of Diana dresses. But somewhere along the way, those plans collided with a tougher financial reality. And Dunkel -- unwisely in hindsight -- decided to invest in an upscale Tampa real estate project called the Enclave at Palma Ceia not long before the real estate market collapsed. Dunkel then leveraged her Diana dress collection by borrowing $1.5 million from HRH Ventures run by Patricia Sullivan, an ex-wife of Outback Steakhouse founder Chris Sullivan. HRH has since sued Dunkel to get its money back.

It's a messy story of good intentions and grandiose plans, overextended borrowing and the wallop of a major recession involving the spouses (ex or otherwise) of some heavyweight business executives.

Dunkel herself was married to David Dunkel, a founder and CEO of Tampa's Kforce, a successful temporary staffing firm with $1 billion in revenues. Maureen was working there as a vice president when the two were married.

Here's Lane DeGregory's St. Petersburg Times story this week on Maureen Rorech Dunkel. That story caught the eye of the Wall Street Journal's Bankruptcy Beat blog.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times


[Last modified: Thursday, June 23, 2011 7:18am]


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