As Halsey Minor files for personal bankruptcy, former Landmark creditors get long-awaited payout

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The long-stalled Landmark Hotel. Photo: Ashley Twiggs. The long-stalled Landmark Hotel. Photo: Ashley Twiggs.

Former CNET CEO and would-be hotelier Halsey Minor filed for personal bankruptcy in Los Angeles County last week, just days after a federal judge’s order in a Virginia bankruptcy court ended a long battle over debts owed to Minor’s former Landmark Hotel contractors.

Minor, a Charlottesville native who has faced escalating financial troubles since selling his tech startup for $1.7 billion in 2007, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy May 24, agreeing to hand over assets he says amount to $10-$50 million to a trustee to pay off a long list of creditors. That list includes the Albemarle County Finance Department, local law firm LeClair Ryan, Kentucky horse breeders, a Charlottesville gas station, and Minor’s ex-wife, current wife, and mother, among dozens of others. According to his court filings, Minor is now living in a 3,877-square-foot house in Beverly Hills.

“I love being an entrepreneur even though it involves financial risk,” Minor wrote in an e-mailed statement published online by the Wall Street Journal and later by local media. “I have been fortunate enough to play a meaningful role in building great companies like CNET Networks, Salesforce.com, Rhapsody, NBCi, the service known as Google Voice and others.

“But if you win some you are going to lose some too,” he continued. “A case might be made I should never have strayed from technology. However, I like doing things outside my comfort zone, and I believe that willingness in part accounts for my tech successes.”

While those named in Minor’s latest bankruptcy filing may have to wait years to get their money back, another list of his creditors saw their debts settled last week after their own protracted legal battle.

On May 20, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge William E. Anderson ordered the payment of more than $3 million to five contractors from Central Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland who worked on the Downtown Landmark Hotel before construction stalled in 2009. Ever since Minor’s development company, Minor Family Hotels, LLC, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010 after sinking an estimated $13 million into the project, the contractors and Minor’s Atlanta-based lender, Specialty Finance Group, have been looking to settle up. The Landmark’s sale at a court auction last June to Atlanta developer John Dewberry for $6.25 million marked the beginning of the end of their wait.

Since then, the money has been held in escrow while the courts determined who would get paid first, said Bill Schmidheiser, who represents creditor R.D. Jones & Associates. The contractors won that battle.

“They got paid every penny of what they were owed, plus interest,” Schmidheiser said. What’s left over from the sale proceeds after attorney and court fees will go to the Atlanta lender.

As for the contractors, they’re hoping for a call from Dewberry, Schmidheiser said.

“They’d all like to work for the new owner,” he said. “They were sort of halted midstream, and they’re hoping that he does start up again.”

Just when that will be is up in the air. When he bought the shell of the Landmark nearly a year ago, Dewberry said he hoped to start his overhaul of the property within a year, but the site has remained silent—as has the company.

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