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Plant City Courier

Plant City’s Madonias selling Red Rose, farming empire

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Published:   |   Updated: May 21, 2013 at 06:53 AM
PLANT CITY -

The Madonia family and one of their companies are selling the iconic Red Rose Inn and Suites and more than 10,000 acres of farmland to repay debts that led them to seek bankruptcy protection in the spring.

Evelyn and Batista Madonia Sr. hope the sale will generate enough money so they can pay off creditors and stay in the farming business.

Real estate firms retained by the Madonias and the East Coast Brokers and Packers are seeking sealed bids on properties in Florida and other states. Bids are due in June and July.

Carl Carter of Murray Wise Associates, which along with Crosby & Associates is handling the bids, said he expects a lot of interest in the diverse holdings. Monday’s announcement lets everyone know that the properties are for sale, he said.

The properties are offered in four separate groupings, including:

  • More than 7,000 acres of Florida farm and development land in Martin, Hillsborough, Polk and Manatee counties; two packing houses; a former Bible college, and several labor camps. Bids are due by 5 p.m. June 20.

  • 13 farms totaling about 3,000 acres; four packing houses; seven labor camps, and several homes in Accomack and Northampton counties in Virginia. Bids are due by 5 p.m. June 20.

  • Red Rose Inn, along with luxury condominiums in Naples and Stuart, as well as other houses and properties not directly related to the tomato business. Bids are due by 5 p.m. July 5.

  • Commercial and residential buildings in Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, including warehouse and cold storage facilities, industrial and residential lots, and several luxury homes. Bids are due by 5 p.m. July 5.

Carter said he didn’t know if the Madonias had holdings beyond those offered for bid. A statement from Murray Wise President Ken Nofziger said the Madonias hope to reorganize their business after the sale.

Murray Wise Associates LLC, headquartered in Champaign, Ill., with offices in Florida and Iowa, is a national agricultural real estate marketing and financial advisory firm. Crosby and Associates, based in Winter Haven, with offices in Tavares and Hawkinsville, Ga., offers agriculture real estate brokerage and management services.

The Madonias filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March for themselves and three companies they own, including East Coast Brokers and a company that operated the Red Rose. The filing estimated their debts at $50 million to $100 million.

The Madonias have a vast tomato-growing operation but are best known for their ownership of the Red Rose, which closed a year ago. Television commercials for the hotel off Interstate 4 featuring Evelyn Madonia in sequined dresses made her a local celebrity. The couple was also known for their generosity, including donations to South Florida Baptist Hospital and the Florida Strawberry Festival.

When they filed for protection, the Madonias vowed to repay their debts. A statement issued Monday attributed their farming empire’s troubles to freezes, competition from cheap imports and damage from a 2011 hurricane that hit their Virginia farms.

Carter said properties will be sold to the highest bidder, subject to the approval of the bankruptcy court.

Scott A. Stichter, a Tampa attorney for the Madonias, couldn’t be reached for comment.

For information about the sale, go to www.murraywiseassociates.com or call 1-800-607-6888.


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