ILNews

Lauth distress over French Lick casino not over

From The
January 1, 2007
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Lauth Property Group may have ended its contentious battle with Bloomington billionaire Bill Cook this week to develop the $382 million French Lick casino and hotel project, but its real battle involving the Orange County resort may have just begun.

The Indianapolis-based developer still faces a breach-of-contract claim seeking $100 million by Chicago-based Merit Management, a hotel and casino developer. Merit and Lauth initially teamed up to develop the French Lick project but failed to obtain a gaming license. Lauth later paired with Cook.

Last month, Hamilton County Superior Judge Stephen Nation ruled that a contract existed between Lauth and Merit, clearing the way for a trial in Merit's pursuit of $100 million in damages against Lauth.

On Wednesday, Cook's team bought out Lauth's share in Orange County Holdings LLC, ending their contentious relationship that included accusations from Lauth that Cook's project managers were incompetent and drove up costs of the casino and hotel project. Last year, Lauth offered to buy out Cook's share in the project for nearly $200 million. Cook countered with a mere $5 million.

Whatever the amount, Merit may well have its eyes on claiming it under its litigation, said Ed Feigenbaum, publisher of Indiana Gaming Insight and Indiana Legislative Insight. "Lauth has added problems in that it's not resolved the Merit [litigation]," he said.

Some observers say Lauth likely walked away with a share of Orange County Holdings closer to the figure for which Cook offered to buy out Lauth. If so, that could be useful in limiting damages that could be collected by Merit if it were to prevail-so long as Lauth cut a deal with Cook that could provide the developer with future revenues, said one source who asked to not be identified.

Lauth officials aren't talking, other than to say the developer's goal "to develop and construct the Midwest's premier resort destination" was achieved, said spokesman Marc Lotter.

Edwin Broecker, a Sommer & Barnard attorney who represents Cook's Orange County group, said the Lauth settlement is a plus for the project.

"This was a great opportunity to have a single focus and vision for the project and how to build on the early momentum that's been there," Broecker said.

Remaining to be completed, Broecker said, is the resort's Pete Dye-designed golf course, which should be ready for play as early as next spring.

The Lauth-Cook partnership appeared problematic from the start, said Feigenbaum, noting the good will Cook has in Southern Indiana.

"It seems like Lauth essentially wanted out since Day One, when they realized they really weren't being treated as a 50-percent partner."
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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

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  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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