Bankrupt former telecom owner Jeffrey Prosser spent $6 million on wine from 1999 to 2006, putting it on a company credit card in his name that was then paid off by New ICC – and ultimately by Vitelco and Innovative Cable TV ratepayers.
The final remains of those and other wines Prosser purchased go on auction Saturday on St. Croix.
The $6 million figure refers to wine purchased from only one vendor: Park Avenue Liquors, purchased specifically with Prosser’s corporate American Express card.
The value of the remains of Prosser’s wine collection had been estimated as high as $3 million in court documents.
But over the course of the bankruptcy, millions of dollars worth of wine disappeared and several hundred thousand dollars worth were ruined by intentional mistreatment, according to the court, which imposed half a million dollars in sanctions against Prosser as a result. (See Court Orders Prosser to Pay Another Half Million in Sanctions in Related Links below)
Under pressure from creditors and with several lawsuits against him, Prosser declared bankruptcy in 2006. In 2007 he and his wife, Dawn Prosser, were ordered to preserve a multimillion dollar wine collection at the Prossers’ homes in St. Croix and Palm Beach, Fla., pending a final resolution of the bankruptcy proceedings.
A court appointed trustee – James Carroll – arranged for an inventory of the wines in 2008 and found the Prossers’ wine safely stored inside a temperature controlled wine cellar on St. Croix. But upon coming back to check on the wines in 2010, the trustee’s agents’ people found much of the wine missing and the rest ruined by neglect
Carroll filed a motion for civil sanctions against both Prossers in August of 2011.
Fitzgerald found the Prossers knew the court had ordered them to preserve the wine and "flagrantly disobeyed them" by allowing about half the wine in both properties to disappear and failing to make reasonable efforts to protect the expensive wines in temperature controlled storage.
"Thus we find Jeffrey Prosser and Dawn Prosser in civil contempt of court," Fitzgerald wrote at the time, continuing to say “their violation of three orders of the court is so egregious that sanctions are warranted."
The auction notice from the estate trustee lists the wines, some of which would normally cost a few hundred dollars, such as a 1992 Caymus Special Selection. Others, such as a 1982 Chateau Petrus Pomerol, can retail for as much as $4,999 per bottle.
But the wines may fetch much less than their nominal retail prices. Wine is susceptible to damage if not kept chilled and out of sunlight. The notice describes the wines and how they were found, saying the room was not sealed tight, but was air conditioned at the time of inspection. Some wines were stored in wine coolers but the coolers were not operating.
"There was no order to the arrangement of the cases or bottles. There were vermin feces and insect residue present in the storage building, and evident on the labels of the wines. As a result, the Trustee makes no representations as to the condition and/or integrity of the wines," the notice concludes.
The auction takes place at 1 p.m. at Quality Food St. Croix, 6096 Castle Coakley.