Miedema Auctioneering Inc. of Byron Center has been named by the secured creditors and trustees in the $60 million Stamp Farms bankruptcy case to sell some of the Decatur-based farmer’s property at auction March 27 in Lawton.
The Stamp bankruptcy may be the largest currently in the Midwestern district bankruptcy court system. In 2012, Mike Stamp was named a finalist for the Top Producer of the Year award by Top Producer Magazine, a farm business magazine published by Farm Journal Media. Later, in November, Stamp’s photo was on the cover. However, in early December he filed for bankruptcy in Grand Rapids.
“There ought to be a lot of interest in it,” said Miedema Auctioneering CEO Sid Miedema, referring to the auction. “It’s got a lot of publicity, and farm land is pretty popular right now because commodity prices are pretty good. It should be interesting.”
Miedema, who has operated the auction service with his brother Scott since 1987, said Stamp Farms is the largest farm bankruptcy with which his business has been involved. Large farm bankruptcies “happen from time to time. Every year there’s a few,” he said.
Miedema also did one of the appraisals on Stamp property that had to be sold to pay creditors. Miedema Auctioneering Inc. sells real estate, construction equipment, agricultural property, industrial, business liquidations, and does online auctions. It is licensed in several Midwestern states and others.
“Right now, we’re doing auctions in Texas just about every week,” said Miedema.
The Miedema Auctioneering notice states it will conduct a live auction of the Stamp Farms real estate in Cass and Van Buren counties. Property includes prime agricultural land, large shop and storage buildings and three homes. The 2,200-plus acres are in 26 parcels, and more than half the acreage includes numerous large, expensive irrigation systems.
The auction takes place at the Lawton Community Center, with online bidding available.
According to attorney Michael McElwee of Varnum Law in Grand Rapids, who represented Stamp Farms, there are actually two separate bankruptcy proceedings. One is Stamp Farms, which consolidates four separate cases, and the other is Mike Stamp’s personal bankruptcy case.
The notice from Miedema Auctioneering also states it will conduct a live auction of Michael Stamp’s farm equipment March 28 in Decatur, including five pickups, two semi-tractors and trailers, a service truck, snowmobiles and more.
Stamp financed much of his investments through Wells Fargo Bank. McElwee said Wells Fargo was owed an amount “in the $60 million range.”
In mid-February, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Grand Rapids accepted a $22.8 million bid on leases Stamp had in effect on almost 25,000 acres of farmland. The bid had been placed by Boersen Farms of Zeeland, with the court’s approval, as a “stalking horse” bid designed to establish a minimum price on the property to thwart low-ball bidders. However, there were no other bids, so Boersen got the leases.
Boersen Farms did not return a call from the Business Journal.
Ben Potter, a writer for Farm Journal Media, reported in October that Stamp had more than 43,000 acres in production and employed up to 78 people at peak periods. In 2007, Stamp bought the Northstar Grain LLC grain elevator in Decatur and expanded it to a capacity of 4.2 million bushels. Last year, Stamp told Farm Journal he expected to handle more than $70 million worth of corn and soybeans in 2012.
Only a few weeks later, on Nov. 19, Potter reported that Northstar Grain and Stamp Farms “are both under new management.”
A very revealing AgDay TV televised report about Stamp was placed on YouTube in late January 2012 by AgWeb, Farm Journal Media’s online presence. As of last week, it was still there. (See “Meet Mike Stamp, Top Producer of the Year Finalist.”)
Stamp, who was 37 at the time, tells the interviewer that he dropped out of college and used the money he had for tuition to buy a semi-truck, starting a business as a grain hauler. In the report, the AgDay TV host says, “In less than a decade, Mike Stamp’s operation has literally exploded onto the southern Michigan scene.”
Mike Stamp then says, “Multiple bankers have laughed me out of their office. I wonder what they’re thinking now.”