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Malibu Performing Arts Center up for auction

June 3, 2009 |  9:07 pm


The Malibu Performing Arts Center — a performance venue and recording studio used by A-listers such as Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand and, recently, Sting — will be auctioned to the highest bidder on June 19 as part of the bankruptcy proceedings of its owner, the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Malibu.

So far, the only bid that has been made public is a $15-million offer from the city of Malibu. If it prevails in the bidding for the facility, which includes 35,000 square feet of rentable space, it plans to use the building as its new City Hall. The current City Hall overlooks the performance center.

“The people in Malibu are not shy to give their opinions, and every person who has called me has said this is brilliant,” Mayor Andy Stern said. “This is a great deal for the taxpayer, if it’s consummated.”

In January 2008, the property on Stuart Ranch Road was appraised at nearly $28 million, but values have since plummeted. In November, it was appraised at $18.4 million, said Reva Feldman, the city’s administrative services director.

Before filing in October 2008 for bankruptcy court protection under Chapter 11, the fellowship received a notice of foreclosure after it defaulted in 2005 on a $12.75-million loan from Marshall Investments Corp., based in Minnesota.

Jeffrey I. Golden, an attorney who was recently appointed as trustee in the matter, said his goal is "to maximize the value of any assets that might exist for creditors.” The fellowship owes more than $14.6 million to creditors holding secured claims.

The auction follows a dramatic decline in the fortunes of the contemporary Evangelical church, which once had as many as 2,000 members, according to Jonathan Morris, who describes himself as pastor “of the church known as the Vineyard Christian Fellowship and Malibu Christian Fellowship.”

The fellowship was formerly known as the Vineyard Christian Fellowship Church, until a rift in 2004 between church leaders and the founding pastor, Dave Owen, caused Owen to leave and start a new church in Agoura. Two entities emerged in Malibu: Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Malibu and Malibu Christian Fellowship.

After the split, Morris said, “there was no way church offerings could support the debt on the building,” for which acquisition and construction costs were funded mostly by the secured loan from Marshall Investments. The fellowship’s board decided to develop a money-raising business that evolved into the Malibu Performing Arts Center.

The facility, on 6 acres overlooking the ocean, has a 520-seat theater, a recording studio, dance studios, kick-boxing and fencing studios, vintage-guitar retail space, and a graphic arts company.

Disputing Morris’ claim to the pastor position are the three official board members of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Malibu, the entity that filed for Chapter 11. One is Ralph “Gene” Shiveley, the fellowship’s property manager, who has said he considers the Malibu Christian Fellowship a separate corporation and church.

Shiveley was named in January in a suit filed by Mary Devine Scott, whose late husband, Bob Scott, had partnered with Shiveley in a management company to raise money for the fellowship. After Bob Scott died, Mary Devine Scott lent more than $3 million to the fellowship. In her suit, Scott alleges that Shiveley pressured her to lend the money, though he knew that the fellowship had no ability to repay the loans. The fellowship’s bankruptcy documents describe that loan as unsecured, but Scott contends she should be repaid.

Morris said his congregation, which has continued to use the performance center building for its worship services, has had to meet in the parking lot the last two weeks because the opposing side has locked it out.

— Martha Groves

Photo: Dancers with the Los Angeles Ballet rehearse at the Malibu Performing Arts Center in 2006. Credit: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times