Miami Arena deal entangled in lawsuit battle
By Eric Kalis
The once-apparently inevitable sale of the Miami Arena has taken a messy turn — owner Glenn Straub responded Monday to a lawsuit from potential buyers seeking to force a sale with a countersuit saying they'd misled him and broken their agreement.
After developer Scott Silver's company, Miami Place LLC, filed suit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court on Sept. 13 alleging that Mr. Straub improperly terminated a deal to sell the arena to Mr. Silver's group for $50 million, Mr. Straub's ownership group, Arena Ventures LLC, countersued for breach of contract, seeking damages totaling at least $65 million.
Mr. Silver's Palmetto Bay company, Grouper Financial, is also listed as a defendant in the countersuit.
The legal standoff could hinder chances to build a baseball stadium for the Florida Marlins directly south of the arena on parcels between Northwest Seventh and Fifth streets. Most of that space is owned by railroad company Florida East Coast Industries.
Team officials have met with Major League Baseball representatives to discuss the possibility of moving the Marlins from Dolphin Stadium near the Broward County line to downtown Miami.
According to Mr. Straub's lawsuit, Miami commercial Realtor Edie Laquer and Mr. Silver made the deal July 26 under false pretenses and broke a confidentiality agreement by revealing details of the agreement to "various third parties" such as Major League Baseball officials, ex-Internet mogul Jim Clark and a Miami Herald reporter.
Despite assuring Mr. Straub that Mr. Silver was serving as a lawyer for an undisclosed French investor who wanted to buy and operate the arena, the lawsuit states, Mr. Silver's group approached several potential buyers in an effort to flip the property quickly.
Once Mr. Straub discovered that, the suit states, he sent a letter to Mr. Silver's group — which had made a $500,000 deposit — on Sept. 11 terminating the sale. Two days later, Mr. Silver's group sued to demand completion of the sale.
Several calls to Ms. Laquer and Mr. Silver were not returned.
Mr. Straub, who purchased the money-losing arena from the City of Miami for $28 million in 2004, said Tuesday that he wanted to take the matter to an independent arbitrator until he found out that his group was being sued.
"We do not have to sue people to get things done," Mr. Straub said. "We were attempting to seek a lower-profile solution, and then they put together this Mickey Mouse suit. People do devious things. … Maybe they want their names in the newspaper."
When he asked members of Mr. Silver's group about meetings with Major League Baseball officials, they refused to answer his questions, which "violated the direct integrity" of the agreement, Mr. Straub said.
Mr. Straub said he is willing to talk to Major League Baseball officials about selling them some of the land he owns. "We are not obstructing baseball," Mr. Straub said. "If Major League Baseball wants to talk, that is fine. They will need somebody to build the stadium."