One of Dallas’ most famous boats is on the auction block: Named the Whitmar, it’s a sailboat belonging to Dallas contractor James Allen “Jim” Benge, and it’s being auctioned off in a bankruptcy settlement, with bidding beginning on July 28.
Benge is a contractor who has been sued by at least two dozen subcontractors whom he hired, then did not pay after they did the work.
The boat has been Benge’s passion project, as well as the subject of two fawning profiles by D magazine. He built it himself, with no expense spared — expenses perhaps easy for him to come by, after having stiffed so many electricians, flooring companies, drywall installers, steel fabricators, cement pourers, and HVAC firms.
While most of the lawsuits brought against him were from small operators unable to afford a legal grind, there was one lawsuit by Hertz Electric and its tenacious lawyer, Nathanial Martinez, of Palter Sims Martinez PLLC, who won a judgment against Benge and his then-company Benge General Contracting LLC in 2019.
That case went through endless rounds of appeals and delaying tactics by Benge (see timeline below), but Hertz Electric and Martinez finally prevailed.
Benge filed for bankruptcy and a trustee was appointed to oversee the auction of the boat, one of Benge’s only assets.
The auction was originally scheduled to take place in April but Benge’s attorney filed an objection with the absurd contention that the auction should not include the boat’s keel or masts, because they were not attached to the boat and therefore were exempt. The court threw that out and at long last, the buck now stops here.
“This was a six-year saga, with lots of maneuvering by Benge and his attorneys to avoid turnover of the boat and, in our opinion, to stall collection efforts against his companies,” Martinez says.
The auction listing on Rosen Systems, Inc. describes it as a 42-foot sailboat that is “70 percent completed,” although boat people in the know put it at closer to 90 percent. “We usually do industrial auctions, so it’s definitely one of the more unusual items we’ve had,” says Michael Rosen, the company’s president.
The interior finish-out is “mostly complete,” including a galley, bathroom, and two bedrooms. Everything was fabricated from only the best materials: intricate inlaid wood, mirror-finish stainless steel, hot and cold running water, and a gimbal mount for the stove to keep it level if the boat hits a wave.
Mechanical equipment includes a 4-cylinder Westerbeke marine engine, and V-Drive transmission, and two masts.
The auction opens July 28 and closes on August 4. Before it closes, there’s a viewing on August 2 at the East Dallas warehouse off Buckner Road, at 3324 Dilildo Rd. Suite J, where it’s being stored. Viewing hours are 10 am-3 pm.
Finding an actual buyer for such a gargantuan, highly personal vessel seems unlikely. But the parties involved are intent on squeezing out …….