Jury awards $43.9M to Marino, Huizenga and other investors in condo project
A jury awarded $43.9 million in damages to investors in a Plantation condominium development, including the Maroone family, former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino and a company controlled by billionaire H. Wayne Huizenga.
Wells Fargo Bank, which would pay the damages, may appeal the amount awarded Thursday by a Broward Circuit Court jury.
The case centered on an email to a potential buyer of a unit at the Veranda condominium in Plantation, a two-phase development initially funded by Marino and the other investors, who were part of a company called West City Realty Advisors.
In 2006, West City Realty Advisors had deposits and preconstruction sales contracts for about 190 of the 200 units at Veranda for a total contracted amount of $79.5 million, according to a suit filed by West City.
According to the suit, the email in question was sent by an employee of the mortgage arm of the old Wachovia Bank, which had been designated as the preferred lender for the Veranda condo project. Wells Fargo acquired Wachovia in 2008.
The Wachovia employee sent the email in October 2007 to one of the potential buyers as a reminder about the scheduled closing date.
In the “CC” or “carbon” copy of the email were the email addresses of more than 100 other people who had made deposits and signed contracts to purchase units at Veranda. According to the suit, the disclosure of the 100-plus email addresses violated a confidentiality clause in the purchase contracts.
The recipient of the email contacted the other potential buyers and united them in an effort to retrieve their deposit money from West City. At that time, the epic crash in the housing market was under way, and the value of comparable condos was dropping.
West City returned approximately $1.6 million in deposits on 80-plus units that were under contract to be sold for a total of about $32.5 million, according to the suit.
Fort Lauderdale attorney William Scherer, who represents West City, told the Sun-Sentinel that only 71 of the 100-plus depositors closed their purchases of condo units at the contracted price in 2008, when the first phase of the Veranda development was completed.
Scherer also told the Sun-Sentinel that a new set of investors, who acquired the development out of foreclosure from construction lender Regent Bank, recently completed the second phase of the Veranda condominium.
According to Scherer, the jury award of $43.9 million represented the total investment by Marino, Huizenga Holdings, the Maroone family, Rhonda Friednamer and principal developers Ken Simigran and Steve Douglas.
In an email on Thursday, Tom Goyda, a spokesman for Wells Fargo, told the Sun-Sentinel the bank has “numerous strong grounds for an appeal” of the $43.9 million award. [Sun-Sentinel] – Mike Seemuth