Make us your home page
Instagram

Plant City's Red Rose Inn sold at auction — or was it?

The Plant City hotel among assets of the Madonia family being auctioned to pay creditors. Its fate remained uncertain Friday.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times (2012)

The Plant City hotel among assets of the Madonia family being auctioned to pay creditors. Its fate remained uncertain Friday.

LAKELAND — Sean Strano hovered outside a conference room at the Lakeland Center, his business cards in hand. Like everyone else packed in the hallway, he wanted to know who bought the Red Rose Inn, the beloved hotel in Plant City known for its kitschy commercials, doo wop dances and Gone With the Wind-themed decor.

It hit the auction block Friday, the second day of a bankruptcy liquidation sale of the assets of the Madonia family, who spent more than a half-century building a fortune in the tomato farming business, only to see it all slip away.

Batista and Evelyn Madonia, who became Plant City royalty and gave generously in town, have hundreds of creditors and owe at least $100 million, said Jerry McHale, the bankruptcy court-appointed trustee overseeing the sales.

Nearly $49 million was raised Thursday in the auction of more than 7,000 acres of farm and development land, packing houses and camps for workers. The family's assets are vast and auctions continue this month in Virginia and Florida.

Friday's auction had homes, lakefront lots, a convenience store and a warehouse. But the Red Rose was the major draw. Bidder 348 won with a bid of $2.1 million. It was $100,000 less than the Madonias paid in 2002, not to mention the $4 million they spent in renovations.

But who was bidder 348? Was he or she in the room with the closed door? The auction was so fast and the bids were so slight, nods with chins barely lifted, it was difficult to keep track in the room of about 70 bidders.

Or did 348 bid online?

The auction winners were sequestered doing paperwork. The other auction items racked up a total of $1.63 million.

Strano owns a landscape management company and hoped to be the one to clean up the Red Rose for the new owner. A blond woman walked out of the room.

"Did you find out anything?" Strano asked her.

"It was some company out of Minnesota," said Donna Jean Crocker, a Realtor representing Plant City clients. She bid $2 million for the Inn on their behalf.

She said auctions tend to be fluid after the bidding stops, with people having to actually come up with the money.

"It ain't over till it's over," she said.

And she was right.

As of Friday evening, the Red Rose's future was still uncertain.

The bid of $2.1 million was not immediately accepted by the trustee, said Carl Carter, spokesman for Murray Wise Associates, the auction company handling the sales. It was not rejected, Carter said, but the official word is that the bid has been "taken under advisement" with no decision deadline announced.

So it seems the Rose is still up for grabs, if anyone wants to spend more than $2.1 million.

It did not appear the Madonia family was there. The youngest son, Batista Madonia Jr., said before the auction Friday that he was upset with the low bids being accepted. He and his family never wanted to liquidate. He said they filed for Chapter 11 in March because they wanted to reorganize, to sell some assets, pay creditors and keep working. He feels like the case has been hijacked out from under them.

"I don't think there has ever been (a bankruptcy case) done this quickly," Madonia said.

He said his parents, now in their 70s, left their home state of Pennsylvania decades ago with $1,020 to their names, believing in the sunshine hope that Florida would be their path to the American dream. He and his siblings grew up at their packing plant in Mulberry, with his mother cooking them lunch and dinner in a little on-site kitchen. He said his parents never took a vacation and reinvested what they made into the business. He said they didn't live extravagantly.

"We are a good family," he said.

Madonia said that when his sister, Laurie, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, everyone took a step back from the business to care for her and search for a cure, taking her everywhere from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore to the Vatican. She died last year. Her illness, coupled with bad harvest seasons from freezes, a hurricane and a battle with cheap Mexican tomatoes, led to their financial difficulties, Madonia said.

His parents are crushed.

"They struggle every day," Madonia said. Losing Laurie, he said, devastated them.

Madonia said they want to farm again and will continue to fight what they can in court.

.FAST FACTS

More to come

The auctions of farmland, facilities and equipment continue this month in Florida and Virginia. For brochures and details, contact Murray Wise Associates at murraywiseassociates.com or call toll-free 1-800-607-6888.

Plant City's Red Rose Inn sold at auction — or was it? 08/16/13 [Last modified: Friday, August 16, 2013 9:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Record $417 million awarded in lawsuit linking baby powder to cancer

    Nation

    LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles jury on Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a record $417 million to a hospitalized woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene.

    A bottle of Johnson's baby powder is displayed. On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, a Los Angeles County Superior Court spokeswoman confirmed that a jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $417 million in a case to a woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene. [Associated Press]
  2. Superior Uniform acquires Los Angeles-based PublicIdentity

    Corporate

    SEMINOLE — A subsidiary of Seminole-based Superior Uniform Group has acquired Los Angeles-based branded merchandise company PublicIdentity Inc.

    Superior Uniform Group CEO Michael Benstock
[Courtesy of Superior Uniform Group]
  3. FBI warns of spreading W-2 email theft scheme

    Personal Finance

    The IRS is warning businesses about a sharp increase in email phishing scams involving employees' W-2 forms — scams that can put staffers' Social Security numbers and other critical information in the hands of thieves.

    The IRS is warning businesses about a sharp increase in email phishing scams involving employees' W-2 forms.
[McClatchy DC/TNS file photo]
  4. Walmart expands grocery delivery service in Florida markets

    Retail

    TAMPA — Walmart is formally launching its grocery delivery service in Tampa, the company announced Monday, as it expands its delivery test into Orlando and Dallas. Five locations around Tampa are offering delivery for online grocery orders.

    Walmart is expanding its grocery delivery to Tampa, the company announced Monday. | [Times file photo]
  5. Marina at Hudson Beach poised to become 24-unit condominium-hotel

    Business

    HUDSON — One of the mainstay businesses at Hudson Beach is poised for redevelopment into a 24-unit condominium-hotel.

    The owners of Skeleton Key Marina in Hudson have filed preliminary plans with Pasco County to redevelop the site into a 24-unit condominium-hotel.