|By Douglas Hanks, The Miami
HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jul. 17, 2007 - Robert Falor, the embattled condo-hotel developer, faces a new lawsuit over his ownership interest in Islamorada's Cheeca Lodge.
The Chicago developer who has feuded with partners in several hotel projects in South Florida now must fight a lawsuit in Monroe County from investors claiming mismanagement and breach of contract.
At issue is Falor and partners' 15 percent stake in the posh Islamorada resort, an investment that marked his entry in South Florida's then-surging market for condo-hotels four years ago. A string of projects followed, but each eventually put Falor in conflict with business associates.
A spokeswoman for Cheeca's majority owner, Johnson Resort Properties in Jackson, Wyo., said the dispute will not affect operations "in any way" at the resort and that Johnson and Falor remain "amicable" partners.
"I do not foresee this lawsuit advancing to any substantial level, and this appears to be an internal matter with one of our limited partners," Jerry Johnson said in a statement.
Falor and partner Geoffrey Hockman formed Cheeca Lodge Manager in 2003 to control their stake in Cheeca when they joined Johnson to purchase the resort. The two companies converted half of Cheeca's 200 rooms into condo-hotel units, selling them off to buyers who could share in the rental proceeds.
In the suit, six minority investors in Cheeca Lodge Manager claim the company improperly distributed nearly $500,000 to entities with ties to Falor or Hockman. When the investors hired an accountant to look at the books, the company provided financial records with certain entries blacked out and redacted, according to the suit.
"We've been trying over a year to get accounting information," said Alvin Lodish, the Bilzin Sumberg lawyer representing the investors. "We're concerned about the mismanagement in general of the entity."
A lawyer Cheeca Lodge Manager, Glenn Widom of Miami's Silver Garvett Henkell, declined to comment. Falor did not return a phone message left on his cellphone Tuesday afternoon. Hockman said in a statement released by Johnson Resorts that "We look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate that this lawsuit is being brought against the entity without merit or basis."
Earlier this year, R. Donahue Peebles sued Falor and partners over alleged mismanagement of the Royal Palm hotel in South Beach, where Peebles remained a minority partner after selling most of his interest in 2004. That suit was settled in May, a few months after Falor stepped down as the hotel's manager. Falor also squabbled with partners, brokers and associates in Coconut Grove's Mayfair and South Beach's Tides hotels.
And he and partner Jonas Mimoun fought in court of their joint conversion effort at the Breakwater and Edison hotels in South Beach, which entered bankruptcy protection in 2005. The latest suit asks a judge to appoint a receiver to take over management of Cheeca Lodge Manager and audit its financial records.
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