World's Greatest Realtor And Keeper of Uniroyal Nail Files For Bankruptcy
World-famous salesman, author, self-promoter and Giant Nail owner Ralph Roberts of Macomb County brags on his personal website that he loves to play Monopoly.
He adds that he has “considerable difficulty finding opponents!”
That mild braggadocio was how Roberts rolled, at least before he filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Detroit, declaring assets of $1.8 million and liabilities of $73.2 million, according to documents that came to light Monday. He listed assets of $1.8 million and liabilities of $73.2 million in the court documents.
In a phone interview with the Free Press Monday, Roberts said that the debt overstated the amount owed to a group of investors. His liabilities include $6.5 million owed to 11 investors, including Dorothy Roberts of Clinton Township, not $6.5 million to each of them as stated in court documents. Total liabilities are $8.1 million.
He also filed for bankruptcy protection for Ralph Roberts Realty LLC of Sterling Heights, listing assets of $1.5 million and liabilities of $108,381.98.
One of the assets he lists is the Giant Nail, the "cultural icon" that Roberts obtained in 2003 from the giant Uniroyal tire on I-94 near Metro Airport.
Roberts, on his website, says he is "continually amazed by the Big Nail’s new life." He refers to it as a "she."
He writes: “It really took me by surprise, her being invited to so many events.”
He says that the Big Nail is “making such an impact, I wake up every day and am glad we have her.” On his desk, Roberts keeps a miniature replica of the Big Nail and its Nail Mobile, crafted and given to him by his brother, Jeff. It serves as a constant reminder of the abundant goodwill in people’s hearts," he says.
In bankruptcy documents, the Giant Nail is said to have a value of $3,000.
Roberts' bankruptcy attorney, Hannah McCollum, told the Detroit News that Roberts' financial problems began when he was indicted by a grand jury in 2004 as part of a charge against former Macomb County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga and state Sen. Jim Barcia, D-Bay City. The focus of the charge were accusations that Marlinga had traded legal favors for campaign contributions.
Marlinga was acquitted and charges against Roberts and Barcia were dismissed, but Roberts' brush with a federal grand jury hurt his ability to access bank funds, McCollum told the News.Roberts has been a combination of self-promoter and local success story who described himself as a “highly sought-after speaker, consultant, author, and personal coach.” He liked to say that since he started selling real estate in 1979, he had sold more than 10,000 homes.
Time magazine called him "the best-selling Realtor in America," just one of hundreds of media notices Roberts received over the years, especially a decade or so ago when his fame reached from his home base in Macomb County across the nation as the housing bubble inflated.
Roberts described himself as a “recognized authority on salesmanship, fraud forensics, residential real estate, and 'Stick-To-It-ism.'’ He said he regularly speaks to groups as small as 30 or as large as 5,000, and has shared the stage with some of today's top speakers, including pro football Hall of Fame member Joe Montana, General Norman Schwarzkopf, author Robert Kiyosaki, and motivational guru Denis Waitley.
Roberts told the Free Press he wished he had been able to work out a settlement with the investors instead of filing bankruptcy. He said his residential real estate company, Ralph Roberts Realty, is as successful as it's ever been. He plans to hire five more employees this month.