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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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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