The most recent auction of a collection of Southside properties tied to Michael Hild and his wife proved fruitless.
The Hilds, who in recent years amassed dozens of properties throughout Manchester and adjacent neighborhoods before Michael was charged with securities, bank and mail fraud in 2019, rejected all the bids that came in through an online auction that wrapped up earlier this month.
The auction process – approved ahead of time by the federal government that’s prosecuting Michael’s criminal case – was managed by auction house Tranzon Fox. It initially was slated to be in person but was moved online in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The auction began in the final week of March and wrapped up on April 1. Tranzon Fox partner Bill Londrey said the unfortunate timing led to bid prices that the sellers didn’t accept.
“We were in sort of a race against time that we didn’t win, frankly,” Londrey said. “That was right when, in Virginia, the coronavirus stuff was taking much more of our attention. Just given the climate in the Richmond area at the time, the selling entity decided to sit back and see what happens.”
The properties up for grabs included:
+ 16, 18, 20 W. 19th St. and 9, 13, 17, 19, 21 W. 20th St.
+ 1917 Hull St.
+ 12 W. 19th St.
+ 1900 Bainbridge St. and 22 W. 19th St.
+ 1906 Bainbridge St.
The largest among the properties available was the former SunTrust Bank building at 1518 Hull St., which local developer Josh Bilder originally won with a $1.65 million bid at an earlier auction last year. The property came back to the auction block after Bilder wound up not closing on the deal.
Londrey said the coronavirus climate dramatically affected the prices offered this time around by interested buyers for the SunTrust building and the four lots available behind it.
“The week before there were multiple people interested in playing,” Londrey said. “Within five or six days they went from being in, to saying, ‘We’re going to sit on the sidelines.’ So that one was clearly and dramatically impacted.”
The latest bid price was not disclosed and was not recorded on Tranzon Fox’s site.
With no scheduled auctions upcoming, Londrey said Tranzon Fox is now weighing offers on the properties as they come in.
“Right now, we’re open for business. Everything’s available and we’re fielding calls,” he said.
The auctions are the result of Michael Hild’s pending criminal case, which is set for trial in New York federal court later this year. The former CEO of now-collapsed Chesterfield-based mortgage company Live Well Financial was arrested last year on allegations of masterminding a bond scheme that prosecutors say defrauded banks out of tens of millions of dollars. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and remains free on bond. His wife Laura was not charged in the criminal case. However, control of many of the LLCs used to purchase their real estate is in her name.
Prosecutors and the court agreed to let the Hilds sell certain properties to try to capitalize on their value and hold the resulting proceeds in escrow.
Live Well’s bankruptcy, meanwhile, continues to play out in federal court in Delaware, where the trustee last month demanded documents from the Hilds related to their various businesses and real estate holdings.
“Based on the trustee’s preliminary investigation, the trustee believes that the conduct in question in the criminal proceeding, among other things, gives rise to civil liability to the Live Well estate and its creditors.
The trustee claims Michael “appears to have personally benefitted from this fraudulent scheme by diverting no less than an estimated $21 million – the proceeds of his fraud – from Live Well to himself, his wife Laura Hild, and subsequently to and between dozens of entities that they wholly own and control.”
The trustee claims he has requested various documents and information but the Hilds have refused to provide them. His request seeks authorization to issue subpoenas in order to force the information to be turned over.
BizSense reporter Michael Schwartz contributed to this report.