Minor broke? Christie's, Merrill say he's out of cash

Seen here at last April's groundbreaking of the Landmark Hotel, Internet entrepreneur Halsey Minor is now fighting three lawsuits from creditors.
FILE PHOTO BY JAY KUHLMANN

Is Halsey Minor, the Charlottesville native, UVA alum, and founder of Internet media company CNET who once had an estimated net worth of more than $350 million, out of money? That's what two new lawsuits are alleging.

London auction house Christie's and New York investment bank Merrill Lynch are both alleging that Minor has run out of cash.

"Minor did not have sufficient resources to pay for the Artworks at the time of the bidding," the Christie's complaint alleges, "and further, that Minor knew that he did not have sufficient resources to pay for the Artworks at the time of the bidding, and that he would not have such resources at the time the payment was due."

The Christie's suit, filed February 2 in Northern California federal court claims fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of contract over the $7 million Minor bid for three paintings he purchased at an auction in July. The suit counters a claim Minor filed in December that alleged Christie's had held on to paintings he handed them to sell for longer than he wished, resulting in their depreciation.

In New York federal court, it's the private finance arm of Merrill Lynch claiming that Minor borrowed over $25 million. Not only did he not pay it back, the suit alleges, he sold off much of the collateral, which was a variety of–- you guessed it–- paintings.

Neither Minor nor his attorney immediately returned the Hook's calls for comment.

If true, the allegations that Minor is out of money are particularly damning at a time when Minor is also fending off a suit from New York auction house Sotheby's for not paying for $16.8 million for another three paintings, and when construction on the Landmark Hotel–- the nine-story Charlottesville luxury hotel Minor owns–- has come to a standstill. The halt on the $31-million project comes only two months after Georgia-based lender Silverton Bank temporarily withheld funds on the project.

Minor's spending on high-priced luxury items doesn't end with art. As the Hook reported in a November cover story, Minor has also spent $77.8 million to buy real estate in Virginia and California, and another $6.3 million on two thoroughbred racehorses, in addition an untold sum he spent to own or lease a Bill Lear-designed Canadair Challenger jet he reportedly uses to commute between his homes in Virginia and the West Coast.

In the tony Holmby Hills neighborhood of L.A., Minor has recently begun renting the so-called Singleton Residence, which was recently listed for sale at what one blogger calls the "mind-melting" asking price of $85 million.

When asked, in a November interview with the Hook, how such expenditures and lawsuits would affect the Landmark Hotel's future, Minor asserted that the Landmark Hotel will be finished and that he has the money to see the project to completion.

"How does that have to do with Sotheby's, or my horses, or that I'm selling my house in Bel Air?" Minor said. "We're going beyond where we need to go in this conversation. You can twist facts around all you want, but I don't see what the hotel has to do with any of these other facts."

–-last updated 2:34pm February 7

22 comments

It is so sad when rich people lose money.

So, let me see if I get this straight. Some kind of internet wiz kid blows a lot of money on toys, pantings and real estate, and goes belly up when the cash runs out. How this comes as a surprise to anyone is beyond me. It was obvious to anyone with just a few functioning brain cells that this guy (Minor) had no money (I'm talking cash or liquid assets, not stuff that has to be liquidated in a crashing economy) to build the Landmark Hotel. Indeed, the statement in the article that Halsey Minor "owns" the Landmark Hotel (which, in reality, is not a hotel at all, but a large construction project on the downtown mall which is currently lying dormant) is a gross mistatement. Halsey Minor does not own it; the bank does. Now, I'm no financial genius, but you don't need an MBA from Harvard to figure out this guy never had the cash in the first place. If he was as rich as the 'Hook' or any other news reports have stated, why would he have to rely on a bank (ie using other people money) to pay funds for the Landmark to continue? If Halsey Minor really had $350 million dollars, why wouldn't he just pay his art auction bills, and why is he asking a ridiculous price for his Beverly Hills crib?
However, for me, the real story is not some rich dick that's spent himself into hopeless debt (there's plenty of those out there), but the fact that sooner or later (probably by the middle of summer) the Charlottesville City Council will be faced with the problem of what to do with a huge erector set (the exposed structural steel members of the Landark calls the image to mind) that lies rusting and adandoned on one the prime pieces of real this city has. Because you know, at some point, the taxpayers of Charlottesville are going to get stuck with the bill for this man's huge ego and empty bank account.

well said Pete.

The city council should simply condenm the building as blight and auction it off. someone will step up to the plate and finish it. Especially if they can by what has been done so far for a song.

I doubt if the citizens will get stuck with anything but increased revenue from what Mr. Minor has begun, and after it is sold at auction for a song, will be finished by one of the many creative geniuses that inhabit our fine town.

How about luxury retirement condos right in the heart of town filled with rich retirees to eat in the restaurants and spend the rest of their time frequenting the many entertainment venues including City Council and Board of Supervisor meetings --all within walking distance

I still say you guys are way off base. The city taxpayers will finish the building with their tax dollars. Watch and see!

Halsey's situation looks smiliar to UVAs in that his money is tied up in non liquid assets and he had no choice but to stop the construction!

My parents and grandparents learned a valuable lesson from the depression years and did not trust banks and individuals with their hard earned money and would not even use charge cards. If you think about it the use of credit to pays for goods was shoved down our throats.

I believe the current financial crisis proves that if you don't learn from the past you are bound to repeat it. Now the government plans to bail out all those individuals/businesses that made the bad decisions that got us where we are and most likely tax the ones that were making the right decisions.

Citizen, I think that is a stupendous idea.

OK, I dib naming rights: "Halsey's Folly."

"rich retirees"? They still have those?

I got an idea, we could convert the current building and make it a museum commemorating the housing crisis that is today. We could have the whole downstairs devoted to Detroit!!

jc have you noticed how full the restaurants are, at least the pricier ones ?

While he's seemingly mired in assorted legal disputes and money issues he was just two weeks ago exploring a bid on a Maryland slots-franchise to fund his race track aspirations. Then Feb 9th he files a lawsuit against Hialeah Park (FL), the dormant track's owner, and the City of Hialeah. How many multi-million dollar lawsuits (and countersits) can one man have going at once?

Perhaps Minor and Casteen will be seen at 14th and University with squeegees this summer! Another one of these self-important Internet fizz-kids whose wallet is his phallic symbol. Now Christie's and Merrill Lynch fell victim to his Gordon Gekko-ish smooth talking B.S.

Dear Readers,

Please remember that if you have a factual claim to make about someone, even if it's first hand or anecdotal, send it to me in an e-mail at lindsay@readthehook.com and please don't post it in a comment.

Thanks,
Lindsay Barnes

HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT OUR CITY GOVERNMENT COULD BE SO PROVINCIAL AS TO NOT REQUIRE SOME KIND OF COMPLETION BOND FOR A PROJECT OF THIS SIZE. SOMEBODY WAS ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL!

"SOMEBODY WAS ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL!"

Wow, that was perceptive. Are you just catching on to this? It's the same people who thought it was a good idea to waste millions on re-bricking, to push for a Meadowcreek Parkway, to waste another fortune on an imbecilic reservoir project, to spend money on overseas travel for city councilors, and on, and on, and on....

Ask Mr. Tolbert why there isn't a bond if you're sure there isn't and then ask someone else how he manages to keep his job. You could wear yourself out asking questions like that in Charlottesville, but I bet you'd never get a decent answer other than the voters haven't risen up yet. Pray they begin to.

Are you referring to Jim Price Chevrolet, Colonial Auto, or what?

Wow, talk about vicious unfounded rumors!!!

Jim Price Chevrolet isn't going anwyhere.

Dear readers,

See my above comment about rumors you wish to pass along. Send me an e-mail at lindsay@readthehok.com if you've got some new information, and I'll look into it.

Thanks for reading.

Sincerely,
Lindsay Barnes

"Worst hike: University of Richmond law student Richard Slimak, 26, is killed when he falls off a cliff at Crabtree Falls March 22."

And you were expecting common sense from a lawyer ... why?