Orange County Business Journal

Diocese in $50 Million Cash Bid for Crystal Cathedral

Jerry Sullivan Friday, July 22, 2011

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Orange on Friday made a $50 million cash bid for Crystal Cathedral Ministries' iconic building and 35-acre campus in Garden Grove.

The offer includes a provision to allow Crystal Cathedral Ministries to lease back a portion of the property for an unspecified length of time. It also calls for the diocese to eventually “facilitate” the relocation of some Crystal Cathedral Ministries’ “religious, educational and administrative departments to a nearby diocesan venue.”

Crystal Cathedral Ministry is bankrupt and has proposed a reorganization plan that would use cash from the proposed sale of the property to repay a $33 million bank loan and some other creditors over a two-year period

Officials of the diocese appear to be aiming their appeal toward bankruptcy court. They said the offer “would provide creditors maximum relief in the shortest possible time” and that “creditors could see resolution within the year and possibly sooner.”

The diocese has sought to build a new cathedral here for some time. Last July it hired an architect to design a new cathedral but has no set plans on a location.

Bishop Tod Brown recently authorized The Busch Law Firm in Irvine and some other advisors to look into possibilities regarding the Crystal Cathedral complex.

Other bids have been submitted on the property, and an auction is also a possibility.

Chapman University in Orange earlier this month made a $46-million bid to purchase the property, which includes seven buildings with more than 329,000 square feet of space. The university is considering building a medical school on the site, which could also host several other programs.

Chapman’s proposal would allow Crystal Cathedral to lease back the church and other property on the campus. The church would also have a chance to buy back the property during the first four years of the lease.

The Chapman bid matched the price offered in April earlier by Newport Beach-based real estate developer and owner Greenlaw Partners.

The Chapman and Greenlaw bids differ on some other terms, including the buy-back provision and the terms offered to Crystal Cathedral Ministries on leasing a portion of the property after a sale.

My Father’s House Church in Norco has said it plans to bid $50 million for the property, but offered no details.

Crystal Cathedral Ministries filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year and has seen tumult among its governing board since then. It recently said Rev. Robert Schuller, its founder, would retain a seat on the board as chairman emeritus with no voting power.

The television evangelist built Crystal Cathedral, known for its television show “The Hour of Power” that broadcasts from its iconic glass church.

Crystal Cathedral Ministries, considered by many to be the country’s first modern megachurch, listed assets and debts of $50 to $100 million when it filed for bankruptcy protection in October.

The church estimates it has some 10,000 members.

The Diocese of Orange is based at Holy Family Cathedral in Orange, where it hosts three daily masses and other events. The current cathedral has seating for 800 people. Church officials consider its capacity insufficient for the spiritual and administrative center of 1.2 million Catholics in Orange County, the 11th-largest diocese in the country.