Hobby Lobby Was in the Bidding War for Crystal Cathedral?

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County might still be eying the property of the landmark but bankrupt Crystal Cathedral church in California, but Oklahoma-based retail chain Hobby Lobby has given up its bid after the church agreed to sell the campus to Chapman University.

Hobby Lobby, a chain of Christian-based arts and crafts retail outlets across the United States and one of the several bidders for the 40-acre Crystal Cathedral campus, has bowed out after the church recently agreed to a bid by Chapman University, The Oklahoman reported this weekend.

Last Monday, creditors officially designated Chapman University as the preferred buyer of the Crystal Cathedral property in court, but the bid is set for court approval Nov. 14. The university agreed to pay $51.5 million – $1.5 million more than the amount agreed upon earlier. The university’s plan provides for the church to lease and in due course buy back its core buildings, which gives hope to church leaders.

Hobby Lobby, which has about 500 stores across the country, had offered a $47.5 million cash bid for the property in August. According to Mart Green, vice chairman of the Hobby Lobby board of directors and son of founder David Green, the plan was to lease the campus to The King’s University, a Bible college and seminary in Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Catholic Diocese of Orange had also submitted a bid of $50 million in cash with a plan to help the ministry to phase out its operations through a three-year leaseback plan for some of the buildings. But the Crystal Cathedral board decided to accept the Chapman University’s bid even after the Diocese increased the bid to $53.6 million.

On Oct. 28, the Diocese filed a petition in bankruptcy court to block the sale of the campus to Chapman University stating that the plan would not be able to pay creditors in full as the Crystal Cathedral could run out of cash by next May.

Hobby Lobby, which runs on biblical principles, could also have possibly offered more money, but it chose to withdraw. It had earlier rescued Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., which had many similarities with the Crystal Cathedral – it was founded by revival preachers and faced turmoil after the leadership was handed over to their families. Oral Roberts University was $55 million in debt, and Green helped with a donation of $70 million.

Ever since founder Robert H. Schuller, then 81, handed over the leadership of the Crystal Cathedral to his family in 2008, the megachurch has faced numerous challenges, including a leadership power struggle and growing debt.