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VOL. 124 | NO. 121 | Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Speculation Rampant About Jobs’ Transplant

By Andy Meek

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DID HE OR DIDN’T HE: In this 2004 photo, Apple CEO Steve Jobs shows his company’s new iPod Mini at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. -- AP FILE PHOTO/MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ

The state of Tennessee has sold the $1.3 million Midtown home once used to house the chancellor of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

The state transferred ownership of the two-story, nearly 6,000-square-foot home near Overton Park to a limited liability company at the end of March for $850,000. That price is about 65 percent of the home’s appraisal.

Whoever bought the yellow house surrounded by trees at 36 Morningside Cove left almost no trace of their identity in the public record. That appeared to be what sparked a guessing game over the weekend among national bloggers and media outlets such as Forbes.com. Some of them are convinced Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs camped out at the house recently while in town to receive a liver transplant.

The guessing game got started in earnest after The Wall Street Journal reported on the front page of Saturday’s edition that Jobs got a liver transplant in Tennessee about two months ago and suggested the procedure was done in Memphis.

High places

If Jobs indeed bought the house, the opportunity appears to have presented itself by happenstance. The state had been trying for months to sell the property, said Frank Baugh, a real property agent for the state.

Baugh said he’d been asked before now, closer to the time the deal closed in March, if it was Apple’s CEO who bought the house. But he never knew.

“It was a strange transaction. I never really knew who bought it,” Baugh said. “I worked with the attorney all the way through.”

UTHSC paid a little more than $1.3 million for the property several years ago. The school decided in 2007 to sell the home.

“We had it up for bid right off the bat, but if memory serves right we didn’t get any bids worth anything,” Baugh said. “So we gave it to a real estate agent to sell for us. ... We ended up selling it to a holding company.”

Local UT board member Karl Schledwitz told The Daily News the home, built in 1914, had been sold for less than its appraised value but he doesn’t recall ever hearing details of who bought it.

“That’s governed by the state building commission,” Schledwitz said.

The state quitclaimed the Midtown home to an entity called LCHG LLC March 26. Since it was state property, the paperwork included the signatures of Tenn. Gov. Phil Bredesen, state Attorney General Robert Cooper and Dave Goetz, state commissioner of finance and administration.

The paperwork creating the LLC was filed March 16, a little more than a week before the LLC then bought the home. The LLC’s executive address was listed as 130 N. Court Ave., the same address as the law firm of Burch, Porter & Johnson PLLC.

Clues and blind spots

Utilities don’t appear to have been turned on in the home for the new buyer until more than a month after the sale. A Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division utility connection at the home was recorded May 4 in the name of LCHG LLC.

The effort that appears to have gone into concealing the identity of the buyer seems to be what has many people convinced it’s Apple’s CEO.

The Journal did not identify the source of its information that Jobs’ liver transplant was done in Tennessee. An anonymous commenter on a Barron’s blog post identified the house on Morningside as the place Jobs may have stayed in Memphis.

A Saturday article at Forbes.com did not identify the home on Morningside, but it sprinkled in enough clues to suggest the same home, such as the fact the mystery home once was the residence of the UTHSC chancellor. But like the Barron’s blog post commenter, the Forbes writer did not spell out why the Morningside home is believed to be where Jobs stayed.

Saturday’s Wall Street Journal story only loosely points to Memphis. The writers of the story reported Jobs received his liver transplant in Tennessee but did not attribute that to any source. Another perhaps random connection between Jobs’ company and Tennessee is former Vice President Al Gore, who sits on Apple’s board.

The WSJ story suggests Jobs’ procedure was done in Memphis via a process of elimination.

The paper identified three hospitals – Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center in Memphis, Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville and Methodist University Hospital in Memphis – designated as liver transplant centers. That designation comes from the United Network for Organ Sharing.

The paper was told by officials from Le Bonheur and Vanderbilt that Jobs didn’t get the procedure done at either hospital. A Methodist University spokeswoman told the paper Jobs isn’t listed as a patient.

Methodist spokeswoman Ruth Ann Hale told The Daily News, “I have checked, and we have never had anyone by that name listed in our directory.”

CNBC reported over the weekend it independently confirmed Jobs had undergone a liver transplant and that the Apple chief’s plane had flown from San Jose, Calif., to Memphis in late March.

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