BRADENTON -- An estate sale for the contents of a palatial home at 6280 Riverview Blvd. W had more than 300 people waiting at the gate when the doors opened at 8:45 a.m. Friday.
For sale are the household items of a 10,000-square-foot riverfront mansion belonging to Bill Mullis, a Bradenton entrepreneur and founder of Employee Leasing Solutions. He sold the company in 2012 to pursue retirement.
Bargain hunters parked their cars along several blocks of Riverview Boulevard, and along side streets for the opportunity to see what remained in the sprawling brick home. What they found was room after room, exquisitely furnished.
Annie Eng came away from the sale carrying a mounted sailfish that she bought for $400.
Call it an impulse buy.
"I live around here and I thought I would check the sale out," Eng said.
Others could be seen walking away with smaller items, such as a spray of flowers or a handful of Christmas ornaments that they bought for a couple of dollars.
Pam Taylor, the listing agent for Michael Saunders & Co., said the first customer showed up at 5 a.m. to buy all of the outdoor furniture. That first customer was joined by 50 others by 6 a.m.
Among items selling right away was a grand piano for $6,000.
"They had looked up the items on the web site and knew what they wanted to buy," Taylor said.
Also selling quickly were the two massive bronze lions at the front entrance for $2,500 each.
But many items remained by noon, including artwork, furniture and smaller items, such as hardback books for $2 and paperback books for $1. The sale is set to continue 8:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Mullis, a human resources pioneer, hasn't lived in the house for awhile and says his family is downsizing after some bad business deals.
"We've had some issues we had no control over, and this is where we're at," Mullis said when reached by phone Friday.
Mullis declined to go into details about what happened, but said he "just got caught by the recession."
According to business filings and court records, Mullis could lose more of his properties. Mullis sold his original company, Staff Leasing, in 2001. Its name was changed to Gevity HR and was sold in 2009 to TriNet, which has offices in Lakewood Ranch, for $98 million.
Citibank filed for foreclosure on Mullis's Riverview Boulevard estate in March. The 10,310-square-foot mansion was built in 1997 on 1.1 acres along the Manatee River. The home includes a five-car garage, seven baths, a guest apartment, bar, paneled library, a pool and spa. The property was featured on a homes tour last year by Michael Saunders, and is being offered for $4.5 million. It was on the market before the housing bust for $10 million.
Mullis is also turning over nearly $50 million in assets -- loans, promissory notes, trusts and title insurance policies, to Sutherland Asset as part of a foreclosure filing against his BME Jet warehouse at 1801 13th Ave. E, according to court records.
The foreclosure includes liens on four homes: 819 128th St. NE, 4903 25th St. E, 6502 23rd Ave W and 6507 Riverview Blvd.,
Mullis' Gulf-front Holmes Beach home at 102 48th St. sold for $2.3 million in August, about $1 million more than what Mullis paid in 2002.
His 4,000-square-foot, four-bedroom home in northwest Bradenton's The Loop sold for $547,000 in July, about $100,000 less than what Mullis paid for in 2004.
Mullis, who lists addresses in Bradenton and Hendersonville, N.C., also voluntarily dissolved 10 of his companies in March -- BTK Charters, Staff Leasing One, Two, Three and Four, respectively, Staff Leasing Holding Co., Employee Leasing Solutions Holding Co., Employee Leasing Solutions Three and Four and Americhase Services Co.
He still has other businesses actively on file, including Associated Automotive Enterprises, PEO Access, BME JET and Staff Leasing Inc.
"It's an unfortunate situation, but it's time to move on with our lives," Mullis said.
Back inside that Riverview Boulevard mansion, the extravagance found between the walls impressed even those who bought nothing.
"What a beautiful home," one person said. "How the one percent live."
Julie McClure, who was handling the estate sale, said she received interest from as far away as Jacksonville.
"They had good taste and everything is in great condition," McClure said of the owner.
The sale was advertised in the Bradenton Herald and estatesales.net, which had more than 3,000 hits, she said.
It took about three days to set up the sale for the fully furnished home.
Although one of her larger estate sales, it's not the largest that McClure has seen in more than 39 years of managing estate sales.
That distinction would probably go to the one held for the widow of Robert Ringling, which included the Ringling safe, and an array of "fabulous" antiques, McClure said.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.