Will the next owners be the present owners, or the hedge fund Creative Loafing borrowed $30 million from to buy the Reader and Washington’s City Paper two years ago? An auction scheduled for August 25 in bankruptcy court in Tampa will decide. Wednesday’s hearing set the ground rules — though apparently none too clearly.

Creative Loafing blogger Wayne Garcia was there. He reports that Judge Caryl Delano is keeping her own counsel about how she’ll determine the winner — the high bidder pure and simple, which would greatly favor Atalaya Capital Management; or the bidder with the stronger claim on publishing expertise and a long-term commitment to CL’s six papers. That, says CEO Ben Eason, is Creative Loafing, which has joined forces with Eason family members and mezzanine lender BIA Digital Partners, owed $10 million.

Garcia calls the hearing “complex, confusing, and undramatic” Maybe so, but here in Chicago we’re riveted.