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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Here's Donald, to Assist Ed McMahon

Mortgage Default Had Left TV Icon Facing Foreclosure

Congress and the Bush administration so far have failed to end a foreclosure crisis that is ejecting hundreds of thousands of American families from their homes. Can Donald Trump save the day?

The real-estate developer is negotiating a deal that would allow television personality Ed McMahon to avert foreclosure and remain in his six-bedroom Beverly Hills, Calif., home.

Representatives of Messrs. Trump and McMahon confirmed the talks, reported by the Los Angeles Times. One new twist: The deal could involve Mr. Trump buying the first-lien mortgage on the house.

Trump: 'Doing My Best'

"Even a man who hadn't had such a great career shouldn't have this happen to them in their later years," Mr. Trump said in a statement released by his office. "I'm doing my best, but this is a very difficult situation."

Indeed, many people who haven't had great careers are in the same boat with the 85-year-old Mr. McMahon, the longtime sidekick to comedian Johnny Carson. Moody's Economy.com estimates that 1.65 million homes will be lost to foreclosures this year. Might Mr. Trump be able to help some of those other hardship cases?

"I really can't answer that for you," a spokeswoman for Mr. Trump said.

Mr. McMahon has been battling to avert foreclosure for months after defaulting on a $4.8 million mortgage from Countrywide Financial Corp. "We don't have a done deal yet" with Mr. Trump, says Howard Bragman, a spokesman for Mr. McMahon. But Mr. Bragman says he is "optimistic" that an agreement can be reached.

The deal is complicated because there are several lien holders and Mr. McMahon owes a total of about $7 million to Countrywide and the other creditors, according to people involved in the talks.

As of Friday, the home was listed by Hilton & Hyland for $4.6 million, down from an earlier asking price of more than $7 million.

Jory Burton, an agent for Sotheby's International Realty in Beverly Hills, says the home has been hard to sell partly because it is just off busy Mulholland Drive and near an area where photographers wait for shots of one of Mr. McMahon's neighbors, pop singer Britney Spears.

McMahon Working Again

Mr. McMahon has said he fell behind on payments after a neck injury interrupted his work making TV commercials. Mr. Bragman said Mr. McMahon has resumed that work and is recovering from neck surgery.

In an Aug. 12 letter to real-estate agents, Alex Davis of Hilton & Hyland said: "We have two weeks to find a new buyer" and avoid a foreclosure auction. Mr. Davis wrote that a "speculator" recently made a "lowball" offer of $4.6 million, only "to pull the plug in the 11th hour."

A spokeswoman for Countrywide, now owned by Bank of America Corp., said the mortgage lender is working with Mr. McMahon to try to resolve the situation.

By: Jamess Hagerty
Wall Street Journal; August 16, 2008