TAMPA — Jack Antaramian continues his fight for control over the 20-acre Naples Bay Resort project, near Tin City in downtown Naples, at a bankruptcy trial that's expected to wrap up next week.
The trial, playing out in federal court in Tampa, started Monday, with Antaramian taking the stand on and off the first four days.
On Thursday, the focus turned to Fred Pezeshkan, president and CEO of Manhattan Construction (Florida), a general contractor, in Naples. He was on the stand for more than three hours, during which he described Antaramian, his former partner in Naples Bay Resort, as having "yo-yo syndrome."
When it came to discussions about ways to settle the multimillion-dollar debt owed on the project for the benefit of all partners, Antaramian was always changing his mind, Pezeshkan said.
At one point, he said, Antaramian offered to write a $1 million check to each of his partners to settle their financial obligations and to take over the liability, but it never happened.
One of the big disputes in the case is over the personal guarantees Antaramian's three partners made on the loan for the project. Antaramian wants to collect on those guarantees after taking over the mortgage. Those guarantees are capped at $15 million each.
In 2010, Regions Bank, a lead lender, foreclosed on the Naples Bay Resort project after Antaramian and his partners defaulted on a $36 million mortgage. Antaramian later stepped into the shoes of the bank, buying the note for about $8.7 million. He's now foreclosing on it.
In 2011, Antaramian and several other creditors filed an involuntary petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy against Basil Street Partners, the developer of the upscale resort project. He was a partner in the company until he resigned.
The bankruptcy case has pitted him against Pezeshkan and his two other partners, foreign investors Raymond Sehayek and Iraj Zand, who is expected to testify today.
Antaramian has said the bankruptcy filing was the only way to get new financing to keep Naples Bay Resort operating. The project includes a 21-room luxury hotel, 30 condominiums and a marina.
Antaramian's former partners successfully fought to convert the bankruptcy case to a Chapter 11, giving Basil Street the chance to reorganize instead of being forced to liquidate as would have occurred under Chapter 7.
In court, Pezeshkan said Antaramian hatched a plan to present a divided front to Regions, to make it appear the partners couldn't reach an agreement on paying off the debt, so that he could then step in and negotiate the best deal for everyone.
Pezeshkan said he went along with the idea, allowing Antaramian to take the lead and strike an agreement with Regions. But Pezeshkan said Antaramian didn't hold up to his promise that he'd resolve his partners' personal guarantees.
When Pezeshkan asked about the settlement with the bank after it was reached, Antaramian told him by phone that he'd signed a confidentiality agreement and couldn't talk about it.
"The call ended," Pezeshkan said.
Rather than reaching an agreement on just one loan, Pezeshkan said he was always pushing for a "global settlement" with Regions on multiple projects, including the failed Renaissance Village, a mixed-use project on a 19-acre site at the northwest corner of Goodlette-Frank Road and Fifth Avenue South in March.
In November, Regions Bank took back that prime downtown site, formerly known as Grand Central Station, at a foreclosure auction.
After testimony ended Thursday, Pezeshkan said the only comment he had to make was that the contentious dispute belonged in the court, not in the newspaper. Antaramian declined to comment.
The case is being heard by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Caryl Delano.
Next week, the two sides will call their expert witnesses to the stand.
Delano told the attorneys the trial must end by Wednesday, when she plans to rule on the case.