Creative Loafing equity auction is underway!

Creative Loafing’s Thomas Wheatley is in sunny Tampa to cover what might be the final chapter in Creative Loafing Inc.’s yearlong bankruptcy saga.

In case you haven’t heard, today is equity auction day!

Creative Loafing reporter extraordinaire Thomas Wheatley is in sunny Tampa to cover what might be the final chapter in Creative Loafing Inc.’s yearlong bankruptcy saga. Wheatley’s first update is posted a little further down — hold on! — and he will continue to offer dispatches throughout the day.

First, to bring you up to speed: The auction pits current CLI CEO Ben Eason, whose family founded Creative Loafing 37 years ago, against Eason’s biggest creditor, Atalaya Capital Management, from whom Eason borrowed $30 million to buy the Chicago Reader and Washington City Paper in 2007. Eason has said the burden of the loan forced him to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year.

If Eason prevails, he will have to pay Atalaya back at least $12 million (on top of any amount exceeding a bid of $2.5 million or higher). The remainder of the $18 million owed Atalaya — if there is any — will be written off.

Wheatley reports that Eason’s opening bid is $2.3 million, including $825,000 cash and the remainder in “in-kind contributions.” Yesterday, Atalaya filed a motion contesting the contributions, but the judge ruled this morning that they were admissible. Atalaya then reserved the right to challenge them later today.

Following Eason’s opening bid, Wheatley reports, Atalaya upped the ante: $5 million cash, on top of including the $2 million cash and $1 million line of credit it already promised in its own opening bid.

Eason’s attorney then asked for a brief break.