Bidders for the nearly two-acre oceanfront lot where Champlain Towers South once stood have until May 20 to pony up a $16 million deposit to participate in an auction for the land, which will take place in judge’s chambers four days later.
Judge Michael Hanzman on Wednesday ordered the sale date moved up from June 20 to May 24 at the request of the so-called “stalking horse” bidder, Damac Properties of Dubai, which offered to increase its deposit to $50 million in exchange for an expedited sale auction.
Damac is “putting their money where their mouth is,” said Michael Goldberg, court appointed receiver for the estate of the Champlain Towers South condo association. “I am extremely happy to report that on Monday of this week Damac assured me their diligence checked out, the property is something they want to acquire."
Hanzman approved the changes as part of his now nearly year-long effort to compensate “unit owners on an expedited basis. I really wanted these condo owners to be paid within a year of this tragic event. It may take a few weeks more… The court’s desire is to move toward this closing quickly, close this transaction and pay the amounts to the condo owners that the court approved in the allocation settlement.”
That $83 million will go to the owners of the 136 units that were destroyed in the June 24 collapse and subsequent demolition.
So far, Goldberg and an array of plaintiffs’ lawyers have obtained about $106 million in settlements from insurers for the condo’s engineer, its law firm, an engineering firm for an adjacent property, and the association itself, all defendants in the class action lawsuit Hanzmann oversees.
Whatever is recovered with the land sale, any other settlements and, potentially ultimately, court judgments will go to those who were injured or relatives of the 98 who died in the collapse.
Some expenses will be deducted from the pool, but lawyers for the plaintiffs have agreed not to collect their standard fees of between 33% and 40% of recovery. The judge has said he could consider some fee requests later in the process, but that lawyers should know that is not a certainty.
While Damak opened bidding for the land at $120 million, qualified bidders who appear in person or remotely in Judge Hanzman’s chambers on May 24 will have a chance to bid higher, in increments of $100,000, until the highest and best offer is accepted by the court. Closing will occur within 60 days of the auction.
Those involved said time is of the essence.
“There’s tremendous geopolitical risk in the world,” Goldberg cautioned. “I don’t know what’s happening in Europe and if it escalates and the effect it has worldwide, in addition to rising interest rates and other perhaps precarious economic issues.”
That was echoed by Michael Fay, managing director of Avison Young – Florida, the real estate firm that donated its services to help sell the property.
“We have gone out to thousands of people. We have been literally across the world” distributing marketing materials, Fay said. “I believe it’s a wise move because of the geopolitical risk and interest rate risk and other things we are seeing, so I’m fully supportive of this.”
“I cannot guarantee anything,” Fay told the judge. “We could have zero bidders or up to a dozen bidders … Most of the bidders and most of the people we’ve been speaking with have been waiting for this day.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: Based on information from the broker handling the sale, a previous version of this story inaccurately stated the amount of deposit prospective bidders now have to submit by May 20. It is $16 million, not $50 million.
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