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National Gold Exchange's Mark Yaffe could emerge from bankruptcy in March

More than $36 million in debt, Tampa gold and coin dealer Mark Yaffe plans to emerge from bankruptcy as early as March.

At a hearing in Tampa bankruptcy court Wednesday, Yaffe's National Gold Exchange, one of the world's largest precious coin wholesalers, said it had mediated a tentative deal with Sovereign Bank, its largest creditor.

The agreement would force Yaffe to liquidate his 30,000-square-foot mansion in Tampa's Avila neighborhood, sell off part of his multimillion-dollar collection of antique music machines and turn over future profits to creditors.

"We're confident we'll have the approval of the bank," Yaffe bankruptcy attorney Richard McIntyre said.

Sovereign lawyer Robert Soriano confirmed "there's a core of a deal there," provided Yaffe discloses his finances more deeply. But getting that information hasn't been easy.

Investigators working on the bankruptcy case said they had yet to fully crack Yaffe's "antiquated" computer system to retrieve financial records.

Yaffe himself has also been reluctant to talk. According to testimony Wednesday, Yaffe has invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

National Gold filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July after Sovereign called back $36 million worth of loans. Although the company had been current in repaying Sovereign, the bank got a tip that Yaffe had siphoned off about $10 million from his company to build his mansion.

The informer was a lawyer for the Bilzerian family, former friends and neighbors of Yaffe who had a falling out over a broken business deal.

U.S. bankruptcy Judge Michael Williamson gave National Gold 60 days to come up with a reorganization plan to satisfy Sovereign. A hearing to confirm it is scheduled for March 3.

James Thorner can be reached at jthorner@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3313.

National Gold Exchange's Mark Yaffe could emerge from bankruptcy in March 11/18/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 18, 2009 8:42pm]
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