Last rats? DLA Piper flees sinking Minor

Last September, lawyer Betty Shumener assured the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Lynchburg that her firm knew what it was doing when it asked to become the counsel to West Coast brainiac Halsey Minor when he put his Charlottesville hotel development firm into bankruptcy. She asserted that her knowledge of Minor's prior hotel litigation and her $790/hour fee would be a good fit, though she noted that her firm, L.A.-based powerhouse DLA Piper, was already owed over $3 million by Minor Family Hotels LLC.

Now, less than nine months later, the legal tab has topped $5 million, and Shumener has finally decided that doubling down is a losing bet. She has petitioned the court for an early exit.

"The Debtor lacks the ability to make any current payments," Shumener writes in her filing.

The move follows a January loss in an Atlanta courtroom. There, a judge brushed aside Shumener's arguments and awarded summary judgment to the lender on Minor's "Landmark," a project that attempted to put a luxury hotel on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall.

Minor says he's appealing the ruling. And as for the unpaid legal bills, he notes that Shumener's firm already holds auctionable artworks to cover the debt. A response from Shumener was not similarly forthcoming.

The UVA-educated Minor wowed the business world during the late 1990s internet boom by amassing a nearly $400 million fortune by founding such key companies as Cnet,, and what became GoogleVoice. In recent days, however, that fortune appears to have dwindled as debt collection actions and other financial woes have been the headline-grabbers.

Minor traces his liquidity issues to a credit freeze by an arm of Merrill Lynch and vows to exact justice with a lawsuit he expects to be heard in Los Angeles in July. He suggests that the recently-aired HBO chronicle of the 2008 financial meltdown, Too Big To Fail, helps viewers understand Merrill's alleged wrongdoing. The firm, he says, chose the weekend of its sale to Bank of America to freeze his account and seize his cash.

Says Minor in an email: "Life is so full of coincidences it just makes you wonder, doesn't it?"

Merrill has thus far prevailed in its litigation with Minor.

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Even the high priced lawyers are bailing out - not a good sign for Mr. Minor, or the future of his hotel. How long will his structure last before it's deemed unsafe and torn down ?

Maybe Donald Trump will buy it out of debt. If he took it over and built the hotel, it could be the perfect place to get rid of his new wine.

This is not a surprise.....Minor owes all his attorneys and the government and his employees and the bank and and and......we know how he has "hidden" the money he has left and plan on getting it...just takes time and with Minor now going to have to act as his own counsel it could be interesting.....what comes around goes around....

Minor, a true Virginia Gentleman, man of honor and crusader for the common man, is clearly being maligned, not only by his attorneys, but by his lenders, Sotheby's, Christies, Merril Lynch, Colonial Williamsburg, ex wife, Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy. As for Shumener, she should be privileged to represent Minor, even if it was for a dime.

Note to self: If you ever get LUCKY enough to be in the right place at the right time and get 300+ million, don't EVER borrow a penny for the rest of your life. just enjoy your good fortune.

Second note to self: If you do screw up, don't do it in your hometown where everyone will laugh at you on the street.