Rev. Leon Finney Jr. sat stoically in a packed downtown conference room Monday as most of the South Side real estate empire formerly under his control was sold off to the highest bidder.
Finney and around 60 others converged at the law offices of Levenfeld Pearlstein in the Loop to bid on 15 properties being auctioned off by the Woodlawn Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit property management company started by Finney nearly 50 years ago.
Last October, Woodlawn filed for bankruptcy after the IRS slapped a lien on its bank accounts for owing millions in back payroll taxes. Finney stepped down as the head of the nonprofit in November.
In March, a bankruptcy judge appointed U.S. trustee Gina Krol to take over Woodlawn after accusing Finney and his associates of engaging in fraud, self-dealing and mismanagement while leading the nonprofit.
Following the auction, Finney declined to answer questions from the Sun-Times — as he has for months. The South Side developer has previously pointed to his recent poor health when asked about Woodlawn’s financial issues.
Krol’s task is to squeeze as much cash out of Woodlawn as she can to pay off the nonprofit’s long list of spurned creditors.
All together, Woodlawn received nearly $7.7 million from Monday’s auction.
Though Finney never raised a paddle or yelled out a bid, he sat next to a woman who attempted to purchase the former headquarters of his beleaguered media venture, Urban Broadcast Media. Her highest offer ultimately came up short of the $475,000 winning bid.
Jerry Thomas, Finney’s spokesman, later claimed the woman’s efforts were unrelated to his client.
In August, Woodlawn evicted Urban Broadcast Media from the residential building at 4108 S. King Drive. Finney later moved the media company into his landmark Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church, which is located just steps away.
Fourteen other properties were included in the sale, all of which surpassed their minimum bids. A pair of lots near the Cermak-McCormick Place Green Line stop snagged the most cash, selling for nearly $2.5 million.
As the big money was being thrown around, the auction was briefly interrupted by a group of protesters pushing for a community benefits agreement for the area surrounding the planned Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park.
“We need to keep Woodlawn affordable for the many and not the few,” one of the four activists said before being escorted out of the building by a security guard.
The Chicago Sun-Times could not immediately verify the identities of all of Monday’s buyers.
One of the winning bidders, Kellye Winbush, a mental health care professional who lives on the South Side, said she partnered with a group of friends to buy a pair of properties after learning about the auction through signs posted in Woodlawn.
Winbush and her friends purchased a three-flat at 6121 S. Rhodes Ave. for $150,000 and a vacant lot at 6521 S. Evans Ave. that cost $20,000.
“We’re definitely excited,” she said.
Here’s all the properties that were sold at the auction:
2201 and 2211 S. State St. — $2,472,000 (sold together)
6234 S. Woodlawn Ave. — $1,575,000
4123 S. Calumet Ave. — $600,000
6310 and 6312 S. Woodlawn Ave. — $515,000 (sold together)
4108 S. King Drive — $475,000
1437-47 E. 65th St. — $395,000
6239-41 S. University Ave. — $375,000
1140 E. 63rd St. — $350,000
6523-37 S. Maryland Ave. — $325,000
4112 S. King Drive — $245,000
6445 S. Kimbark Ave. — $180,000
6121 S. Rhodes Ave. — $150,000
6521 S. Evans Ave. — $20,000