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Del Monte bids nearly $35 million for Madonia farmland at auction

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Published:   |   Updated: August 28, 2013 at 08:35 AM

PLANT CITY — Del Monte Fresh Produce was the high bidder on thousands of acres of farmland in Florida and Virginia owned by a Plant City couple, auction records released last week show.

The Coral Gables-based company bid nearly $35 million for farmland and related assets such as packing houses owned by Evelyn and Batista Madonia Sr. The bids now go to a bankruptcy judge for approval, but the bankruptcy trustee has recommended their approval.

A $2.1 million high bid for their iconic Red Rose Inn and Suites in Plant City hasn’t yet been accepted by trustee Gerard McHale Jr., said Carl Carter, spokesman for Murray Wise Associates auction company.

The Madonias, who once operated a multi-million dollar tomato-growing empire, filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year. More than 10,000 acres, packing houses, homes and other assets were auctioned to repay debts owed by the couple and companies they control.

Major high bids included:

$22.9 million, Del Monte, farmland in Manatee County

$19.5 million, Brevard-Harbor Edge, LLC, farmland in Martin County

$11.9 million, Del Monte, farmland in Virginia

$3 million, Jack P. Sizemore Jr., farmland in Polk County

There were several other bidders for smaller parcels, homes and other assets. In all, the auctions brought in a $68.7 million.

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