Tower tangle: Judge limits Minor suit against Danielson

landmarkwithMinorandDanielsonThe Tyvek tower flaps in the breeze on the day of the hearing.

The tussle over the unfinished Landmark Hotel entered a new chapter Wednesday, as lawyers for developer Lee Danielson and owner Halsey Minor sparred before Judge Edward Hogshire, who ended up pushing some of the battle into arbitration.

"It won't obviate what's left of the suit completely," said the judge, "but a lot of these issues will be resolved with arbitration."

The last time these two titans clashed was late November when Judge Hogshire threw out Minor's fraud claims–- but also let Minor refile the suit. And refile he did, making the same basic allegations that Danielson intentionally "sabotaged" the project to force Minor out.

In court on February 17, Judge Hogshire heard Danielson's attorney Connor Crook slam the December 11 refiling as an attempt to evade the judge's last ruling in which Danielson, who is also suing Minor, was treated not as an individual but as the head of a company called Hotel Charlottesville LLC.

"Since the court has already thrown out these allegations against Hotel Charlottesville," said Crook, "plaintiffs say, 'Now we're gonna blame Lee Danielson.'"

Indeed they did. Minor's lawyer Betty Shumener, who flew in from Los Angeles, where both men live, told the court that Danielson was the sole decision-maker in the company and that the 101-room hotel was erected on an over-optimistic budget that amounted to fraud against her client.

"He wanted to get this hotel built," Shumener told the judge. "He was looking for a deep pocket."

In recent months, the depths of Minor's pockets–- which once held a fortune estimated at approximately $355 million thanks to visionary investments in GoogleVoice and, plus the founding of Cnet–- have come into question.

Two creditor lawsuits allege that shopping sprees on art have led Minor–- who has also found himelf dealing with divorce, racehorses, and multiple mansions–- into financial ruin. However, Minor disputes such allegations; and he vows, even while successfully fighting off two foreclosure actions on his 205-acre Fox Ridge Farm, that he'll bring down the company that caused his liquidity crisis.

"I am tireless in pursuit of my dreams," Minor says in an email. "I may actually own Merrill Lynch when this one is done."

Merrill Lynch was once an icon of Wall Street and a place where a young Minor once worked, but the financial firm became the bane of Minor's existence in late 2008 when it suddenly slapped a billion-dollar freeze on his accounts. Minor alleges that Merrill's freeze was part of a pattern of illegality that arose from prettying its books in anticipation of its merger with Bank of America.

Indeed, Bank of America agreed February 2 to pay the Securities and Exchange Commission $150 million to settle federal charges that it hid the depths Merrill's financial losses from shareholders; two days later, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo filed new claims against the company that accepted billions in bailout money from American taxpayers. (Minor, however, recently lost Merrill's $21.6 million suit against him, saw his counterclaim thrown out as made in "bad faith," and agreed one month ago to abandon his appeal.)

Back at the Charlottesville Circuit Courthouse, an attorney from McGuire Woods told the judge that there are 15 liens from unpaid contractors eager to see the lawsuits resolved. Also present was an Atlanta lawyer representing the project's lender, Specialty finance Group, which Minor sees as a co-conspirator with Danielson. The lender, waging a separate default claim against Minor in Georgia, denies the allegation.

After the hearing, Danielson, who helped reinvigorate downtown in the mid-1990s by developing the Charlottesville Ice Park and Regal Downtown theater, expressed relief that key issues in the case were moving toward arbitration, something his side has sought from the start.

"There is no dispute," Danielson said in the court hallway. "He owes me the money."

Minor, who was not present, seemed to take equal pleasure in the judge's decision to move the case forward.

"Glad it will go fast," he said in an afternoon email.

The two sides were given just two weeks to choose a mutually agreeable arbitrator.


World class city!

comment deleted by moderator (opinions: okay. insults: not okay)

Charlottesville is not laying off teachers...

comment deleted by moderator (opinions: okay. insults: not okay)

He is going to "own" Merrill Lynch like to was going to "own" Hialeah, Pimlico and Laurel race tracks????? Wasn't he going to take "down" Sotheby's and Christie's too??? Most likely he needs to have his nose redone...he just doesn't get "it"....

Jimi, it's on the table. How many teachers get laid off, if any, depends on the exact amount of state funding the school system loses this coming year.

I was PROMISED a rooftop bar. I DEMAND my rooftop bar.

Sigh. Maybe someday.

show ne thw money....

THEN I will think that it is NOT about the money.

So Minor agreed to fund this project based on Danielson's over-optimistic budget, but never ran the numbers himself? Talk about a failure to do your due diligence, especially when we're talking about 30+ mil. I'd be embarrassed to admit that in court.

Where is the city on this whole thing? Please, please Hook people ask the city officials why they didn't require a completion bond on a project of this magnitude. A bond company would have taken an unbiased view on this project, which would have stopped it in its tracks. Before the hole and the steel and the tattered Tyvek.

And **** is right. Everyone should have been going over the the projections. There constructions costs seem to have been a fantasy, and I'll bet their income assumptions are just as far off.

I'm with Goshen. At this point I'd be happy to have Water St. cleared up. The Empire State Building was built in less time. In 1930.

Minor sounds slightly paranoid in his public statements. Sure, he could just be a jerk, but I am beginning to wonder if mental health issues are a factor.

I'm sure that after two years of below average winters, with the moisture that building's skeleton has absorbed between the cracks and the freeze thaw cycle, that building may already not pass some levels of inspection and is ready for the scrap pile. I wish all these greedy jerks would just leave Charlottesville and play with their money somewhere else.

William, What I like is the ugly facade and how the powers that be literally fought to "preserve" it. Meanwhile, the victory shoe store is another victory for the preservationists. What a pretty hole in the wall!

At least we have new bricks under our feet.

Halsey still thinks he has a chance in arbitration. Why is he looking forward to it? He is going to obstruct any attempt to settle the claims without a judge present to force his hand. The man is broke, alone and losing lawsuits faster than Democratic Senate seats. Just settle them all, pay off your debts and go hide in your newly reacquired farm. He should have just finished the hotel, taken the money and forgot about all his other problems. Don't worry little man, you wont own ML when its all said and done. No idiot in their right mind would give you a cent from SFG, ML, SAH, HC (or LD whomever you claim was involved in that fruad) or any of your other frivolous lawsuits. Try running for Gov. of Virginia see how far your skeletons take you in that fight. Halsey is a crazy coward. Cut your losses my man.

Said well when you figure Halsey has blamed everyone else for anything that didn't go his way. I don't know all the particulars but I do know business. This guy Minor has lost every lawsuit he has initiated and has a track record that speaks for itself. Who has come to his defense that has ever done business with him? He will unlikely EVER do business again with anyone. He believes his "hometown" roots are going to save him. He doesn't give two cents about anyone other than HM. What a waste of time. If he was so pleased about going to arbitration then why did he stall for sooooooooooooooooooo long? Can his family do an intervention and save what may be left?

Can't they just get rid of this thing? Dismantle it?? Implode it with TNT?? Something???? :D This thing is such a blight on the Mall. It never should have been built in the first place. Even if it had been completed it would have been a blight. The Tower of Blight.

Yepper. Taken a look at those bricks lately? They're separating from one another just like the old ones did. A Pro Se attorney can make $$$ off of these boobs. I like the implosion idea, too. That way the "Perpetual Pipeline Project" next to the "Boy's Tower" can be buried as well.

quote: "At least we have new bricks under our feet."

Yeah, $7+ million dollars in bricks. And now we have to lay off teachers. Bricks before education, makes sense to me!

We should have saved that $7+ million for a rainy day.

All I know is I am sick to death of the fouled-up traffic on Water St. caused by this fiasco.

GoshenLover, it actually serves the same purpose as a speed bump! :)

comment deleted by moderator (opinions: okay. insults: not okay)

One wonders that if Minor loses his arbitration to Danielson whether he will really pay or just do the same old thing. I just wonder if he can ever be man enough to accept responsibility. So far no but maybe he can change..I must be stoned tonight???? Of course he won't do the "right" thing. Never has; never will.