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Crystal Cathedral picks Chapman University as its buyer

Under the plan, Chapman would purchase the campus for $50 million and allow the church ministry to lease and eventually repurchase its core buildings.

October 27, 2011|By Nicole Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times
  • A statue of Moses and the Ten Commandments is part of the campus of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove.
A statue of Moses and the Ten Commandments is part of the campus of the Crystal… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)

Chapman University has been picked by the board of the bankrupt Crystal Cathedral as the preferred buyer of the Garden Grove property.

Under the plan, Chapman University would purchase the campus for $50 million and allow the church ministry to lease and eventually buy back its core buildings.

Chapman President James L. Doti said he had not spoken to the board about the decision, but believes it is the right one for the ministry, founded by Robert H. Schuller in 1955.

"All the creditors will be paid," he said. "And the Crystal Cathedral ministries will continue."

The landmark church, with 10,000 panes of glass, filed for bankruptcy last October, citing more than $50 million in debt. It is a ministry that has been mired in turmoil throughout the last several years, beginning with the resignation of Robert A. Schuller, the founder's son, as pastor in 2008.

Three weeks ago, the church's creditors committee filed suit, alleging that the church founder's family members and in-laws profited as the ministry struggled. The elder Schuller called those allegations untrue.

By Monday, the creditors committee will officially designate the school as the buyer. A hearing to approve a bankruptcy exit plan is set for Nov. 14.

To stave off a sale, the Crystal Cathedral had hoped to raise more than $50 million through a "miracle faith" campaign begun July 31. According to financial statements filed Oct. 18, the church had raised only $172,775.50 through September.

In a statement applauding the Chapman decision, the elder Schuller emphasized his respect for the school.

"Chapman is an esteemed educational institution and we are compatible in many ways," he said. "If Chapman emerges as the owner of the Crystal Cathedral campus, we will welcome the future students and faculty with all that our positive faith has to offer."

The Crystal Cathedral ministry will be able to lease back its core buildings, including the main church and the 134-foot-high prayer spire and chapel, for $150,000 per month with 3% annual increases for 15 years. The church can then repurchase core buildings.

For two years, the church may lease portions of the Family Life Building, which is now used for a school and offices.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange also bid on the church, with a plan to purchase the campus for $53.6 million. The extra $3.6 million would have been used as a rent reserve. After three years, however, the ministry would have had to find a new home.

Other interested buyers included a non-denominational church based in Norco and real estate investors.

In Schuller's statement, he said: "In the meantime, we look forward to focusing on our new dream: buying the core campus back."

nicole.santacruz@latimes.com

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