Higher plane: Minor sought jet during Landmark default
It's been nearly a year since construction began on Halsey Minor's soaring Landmark Hotel on the Downtown Mall. Since then, Minor's construction lender has sued the Internet entrepreneur for missing payments while an estimated 300 contractors are out of work as the construction site lay dormant during the legal scrape. While the project remains up in the air, so too is a clue about another source of Minor's financial woes.
In his response to a suit from Merrill Lynch over a $25 million loan he took out to purchase art, Minor states that on June 3, 2008–- after work on the $31 million Landmark Hotel had already begun–- Minor put down a $3 million deposit to purchase a Gulfstream G650 jet. The list price for the private plane is $58.5 million.
Last December, at a time when Atlanta-based Silverton Bank now alleges Minor was missing payments on the $23.6 million construction loan he had taken out to build the Landmark, Minor reveals he went back to Gulfstream and asked for a portion of his deposit back. Gulfstream, according to Minor's own March 10 filing in a New York federal court, wired Minor $1.5 million on December 19, on the condition that he pay it back by January 30–- or lose the plane and the rest of his deposit.
That deadline came and went.
On Tuesday, February 24, Silverton sued Minor for $10.5 million in missed payments on his Landmark loan.
In recent weeks, as Minor–- who owns two mansions in Virginia and two in California–- has halted payments to auction houses and to start-up ventures, his creditors have claimed that he has simply run out of money.
So why was Minor trying to buy a $58.5 million jet while, his lender alleges, he couldn't make good on his deal to build the $31 million Landmark hotel? Bill Goggins, the Landmark's chief contractor for construction firm Clancy & Theys, seems perplexed.
"I wasn't aware of it," says Goggins. "All I can say is that these are crazy times."
Gulfstream unveiled plans for its latest model in March 2008 and boasted that it would be "the fastest civil aircraft flying," able to reach speeds in excess of 700 mph, just shy of the sound barrier, with a fuel efficiency that allows the plane to fly at altitudes of over 50,000 feet and distances over 8,000 miles–- more than enough range to fly non-stop from L.A. to Paris.
The cabin will be plenty roomy at 8 1/2 feet wide by 6 1/2 feet high, able to seat 18 passengers, or just eight if they wish to sleep in the lie-flat beds while checking e-mail through the in-cabin wireless Internet capability.
The catch? The plane doesn't actually exist yet.
Gulfstream anticipates the first of the G650 fleet to be in the air this year. And don't think about just plunking down your credit card to claim yours today. Gulfstream already has reservations for G650s into 2017. Through a lottery, Minor was in line to receive the 51st one available in 2013.
If the story of a Gulfstream lost amid worsening financial conditions seems familiar, it echoes Tom Wolfe's 1998 tragic-comic novel, A Man in Full. However, unlike Wolfe's once-well-to-do protagonist who loses his plane due to a bank foreclosure, it would appear Minor has parted with his Gulfstream–- and $1.5 million in deposit money–- voluntarily.
Minor did not return the Hook's calls for comment, but Betty Shumener, the attorney representing him in his suit against Danielson, says Charlottesvillians should not read anything into her client's attempted purchase.
"I don't know anything about it," says Shumener, "but it's got nothing to do with this case, and I would hope that you report responsibly."