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Auction of property from Universal Health Care Group set for next week

ST. PETERSBURG — Need a Sub-Zero wine cooler? A 16-foot conference table? A papyrus copy of King Tut's death mask?

Those are among the thousands of items up for bid next week as auctioneers liquidate property of the once high-living Universal Health Care Group.

The St. Petersburg Medicare insurer wound up in bankruptcy court last winter after state regulators deemed Universal nearly insolvent and accused executives of financial mismanagement — including fraud and diversion of funds — under the leadership of founder Dr. Akshay Desai.

Proceeds of the auction will help pay Universal's creditors, owed more than $50 million.

"There really is something for everybody here," said Eric Rubin of Moecker Auctions, which will hold the sale in Universal's former St. Petersburg headquarters. "They definitely knew how to spend money."

Examples of Desai's eclectic, and lavish, taste abound in the 883 auction lots, which include custom artwork, hand-blown glass plates and sculptures, leather sofas and an enormous portrait of Gandhi that hung outside his office.

Employees of the Indian-born Desai knew him as a demanding boss — one lot features "a grouping of motivational posters — matte and nonglare." But there were perks, too. Up for bid are two Nostalgia tabletop popcorn machines, beanbag toss and Spin-to-Win games and a case of anti-fatigue mats. Employees could stash their snacks in nine GE and Whirlpool stainless steel refrigerators or catch the news on more than 20 large flat-screen TVs.

Desai apparently was a huge sports buff, as evidenced by several lots of chairs and tables from conference rooms named for the Rays, Bucs, Bulls and other Florida teams. Also on the block is the No. 54 jersey of hockey player Paul Ranger that hung in the "Lightning Room."

More conventional items include desks, printers, projectors, computers, shelving and monitors, some of them new-in-the-box Hewlett-Packard 22-inch LCD models.

Universal's two biggest assets — its headquarters and a condominium in nearby Signature Place — already have been sold. The condo, used by Desai and wife Seema as a weekend getaway, went for $795,000, including furnishings and artwork valued at more than $115,000.

Desai, once a major Republican fundraiser and member of the state Board of Education, still has his Snell Isle mansion. But he recently sold an adjacent bayfront house for $1.2 million to another Indian-American doctor.

It can be yours to rent for $4,900 a month.

Susan Taylor Martin can be reached at

.if you go

Let the bidding begin

The auction will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at 100 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Previews will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and at 9 a.m. on auction days.

The auction catalog is available at

Auction of property from Universal Health Care Group set for next week 09/17/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 9:33pm]
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