TAMPA _ Iraj Zand had his day in court.
Zand, an investor in the Naples Bay Resort project in downtown Naples near Tin City, testified Friday for nearly three hours in a bankruptcy case involving the project's developer, Basil Street Partners.
The contentious case has pitted Zand and two other investors against Naples developer Jack Antaramian, their former partner in the project. The ruling in the case will determine the fate of project, including whether it will be sold.
Antaramian was a partner in Basil Street until he resigned.
In his testimony, Zand said in May 2010 the four partners were in agreement on what he described as a "global offer" to Regions Bank that would have taken care of the debt they owed on the project and three other loans, including one for the failed Renaissance Village, a mixed-use project off Goodlette-Frank Road, near Fifth Avenue South.
But, he said, an agitated Antaramian pulled out of the agreement at a board meeting, saying he no longer could support it because his looming divorce had taken a bad turn.
"We had no unanimity at that point," Zand said.
Antaramian brought a folder to the meeting that contained information, obtained by a private investigator, about his pending divorce, Zand said.
"It was an extremely emotional meeting," said Zand, sharing no other details.
It was after that emotional meeting that the three other partners agreed to allow Antaramian to negotiate alone for the purchase of the bank note for the project, which had fallen into foreclosure, Zand said.
Later, the divorce case was dropped. Antaramian is still with his wife, Mona, who sat with him in the courtroom this week.
Ultimately, Antaramian was successful in buying the mortgage from Regions, purchasing it for about $8.7 million — a hefty discount. Regions foreclosed in 2012 after the partners defaulted on a $36 million mortgage.
After stepping into the shoes of the bank, Antaramian foreclosed on the mortgage. He's looking to collect on his partners' personal guarantees on the loan.
Zand said he and the other two partners who are in a dispute with Antaramian approved his purchase of the note with the understanding that it would wipe out their loan guarantees. Those guarantees are for up to $15 million each.
Zand said Antaramian told him and the other two investors to go to Regions and tell the bank that there was no agreement between the partners and that the three of them had no offer, or no other buyer.
"We did everything that was asked of us," he said.
Antaramian, he said, hatched the plan so that he would appear to be the "white knight" to Regions. Zand said he went along with the plan because he had no reason to doubt Antaramian.
"I think Jack pushed the right buttons," Zand said.
He said he always knew deep in his heart that Antaramian wanted the project.
In 2011, Antaramian and several other creditors filed an involuntary petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy against Basil Street. His partners, which also include investor Raymond Sehayek and Fred Pezeshkan, chairman of Manhattan Construction (Florida), successfully fought to convert it to a Chapter 11, giving the company a chance to reorganize instead of being forced to liquidate.
For the case, the value of the project has been estimated at $9.35 million. The project includes a 21-room luxury hotel, 30 condominiums and a marina.
"It has been a trying case for all of us," Zand said in an interview after testifying. "I'm very glad I had my day in court."
He's eager for a resolution.
"The people who live there, they deserve the best," he said, referring to the Naples Bay Resort. "It's unfortunate in any way to give them uncertainty."
The trial continues next week. It's expected to wrap up Wednesday with closing arguments. The bankruptcy judge, Caryl Delano, is expected to rule that day on whether to allow Antaramian to foreclose and on his claims against his partners.