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Beetle Bailey creator to sell museum site

The creator of the Beetle Bailey comic strip is selling his bankrupt International Museum of Cartoon Art building for $2.75-million, ending the gallery's troubled six-year stint.

Mort Walker will sell the building to pay back an anonymous arts patron who gave the museum a loan in October 2001 to avoid foreclosure.

The museum was bought by a group of developers and investors, and Lynn University. The collaborative said it plans to replace the museum building with a 140-room hotel and 400-seat theater.

Lynn University will use the theater for performances and the hotel for training internships in Lynn's hospitality management program.

Walker said he will move the museum to Stamford, Conn., the cartoonist's hometown. Most of the museum's works already are in storage in Connecticut.

The museum, which had been $2-million in debt, earlier tried to defray the amount by auctioning off its prized exhibit, a set of 1928 Mickey Mouse pencil sketches valued at between $3.2- and $3.5-million. But the drawings failed to sell at auction.

Walker had hoped that the Mickey Mouse exhibit would fetch at least $2-million. Hundreds of other drawings sold for less than anticipated at the auction, and many more didn't sell.

Walker founded the museum in Connecticut in 1972. It was moved to Boca Raton in 1990 from Rye Brook, N.Y., and opened in 1996. A partnership with Florida Atlantic University, in which the university would have paid off the museum's debts, fell through.

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