Brochure advertising proposed stadium land for sale leaves officials scratching their heads
- Henderson settles lawsuit against lawyer for accused sports arena developer for just $750 (2-14-2013)
- Closing date delayed for land sought in Henderson arena deal (2-5-2013)
- Why is a Henderson councilman sidling up to an attorney being sued by the city? (2-4-2013)
- City alleges developer with arena plan only wanted cheap land (1-29-2013)
- Henderson tries to block land deal in stadium project, citing fraud concerns (12-29-2012)
- Henderson stadium developer rejects fraud claims, seeks new development agreement with city (12-3-2012)
Developer Chris Milam’s proposed sports arena in Henderson has raised plenty of eyebrows since several of his previous local business plans have flopped.
But, with the Las Vegas National Sports Complex on the verge of collapsing amid fraud allegations, his latest move is causing local real estate pros to really scratch their heads.
Last week, less than a month after the city of Henderson sued Milam’s group for allegedly trying to flip the government-owned project site to other developers for profit and the launch of a federal investigation into his efforts to buy the land, a marketing brochure went out advertising that same real estate to investors.
Given the accusations and turmoil, why is Milam trying to sell the property? Few can say.
“It makes zero sense to me,” said developer Eric Cohen, a managing director of the Calida Group. “I don’t even have a response for you. It just makes zero sense.”
Real estate lawyer Michael Buckley said the brochure “just sounded weird to me, as does the whole thing.”
“It seems like it’s making things go from bad to worse,” said Buckley, a director with the Fennemore Craig Jones Vargas law firm.
People ensnared in lawsuits sometimes make public moves to highlight their side, real estate attorney I. Scott Bogatz said, and Milam probably doesn’t expect to actually sell the land. Still, the marketing effort was “a surprisingly aggressive move given the pending dispute,” Bogatz said.
Milam’s Silver State Land LLC is in escrow to buy the 480-acre project site near the M Resort from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, but the deal hasn’t closed yet. The closing date has been extended twice in recent months and now is set for March 28.
Milam laid out plans for up to four sports arenas and stadiums for the site, though no teams have committed to them. The combined price was expected to be more than $1 billion.
Developers sometimes try to sell land before they’ve taken ownership of it, and that can be allowed under the terms of a contract, said Brendan Keating, principal of the Equity Group, a brokerage and development firm. But with the controversy surrounding Milam’s project, Keating said the land advertisement "doesn’t make sense.”
The brochure, from broker Rick Hildreth, of Land Advisors Organization, describes the exclusively listed land as 477.87 acres of mixed-use property adjacent to the Inspirada master-planned community. Hildreth did not respond to requests for comment.
“This truly represents a unique and rare opportunity to buy land in Southern Nevada of this size and quality location,” the brochure says.
District Court Judge Susan W. Scann said at a hearing Thursday that the brochure should be taken down. It has since been withdrawn, said Terry Coffing, an attorney for Milam.
Coffing said the sales effort was part of what Milam believed to be a possible legal settlement that did not come to fruition. Nevertheless, the brochure “clearly says” the land has an arena overlay, he said.
Milam also has the right to sell the property once he closes escrow, said Coffing, managing partner of the Marquis Aurbach Coffing law firm.
“I’m not sure I understand what the hoopla is about,” he said.
Dennis Kennedy, a lawyer for Henderson City Hall, did not respond to requests for comment, nor did Henderson City Attorney Josh Reid or city spokesman Bud Cranor.
The city of Henderson on Jan. 28 sued Milam, his lawyers John F. Marchiano and Christopher C. Stephens, land consultant Michael Ford and public relations-lobbying chief Lee Haney in Clark County District Court.
They were accused of trying to use a city-approved development pact to fraudulently buy the BLM land at a cheap price, roughly $10.5 million, and sell it piecemeal to residential and commercial developers for profit.
Stephens recently paid $750 to settle the accusations against him.
The U.S. Department of the Interior, which the BLM falls under, has reportedly asked its inspector general to review the sale.
The case already has seen its share of drama. Marchiano, a former Henderson city attorney, allegedly “confessed” last year to city officials that Milam had been lying about the project, according to the city. In a hand-written letter dated Dec. 16 that he purportedly wrote, Marchiano told Reid:
“Josh, I have very few friends. Most of the people I associate with are people who can do things for me; I use them they use me (sic). ... I know what a hypocrite I can be.
“Josh, it is important to me that you know that I had no idea what Milam was doing in marketing the property...
“Josh, I wish I had done things differently.
“I have no right to expect anything from you.
“I will do my best to learn from this; and not repeat the same mistake (sic) ...”
Judge Scann has been scheduled to consider on March 18 the city’s request for a court order that would prevent Milam’s group from buying or selling the project site. However, Coffing wants her to dismiss that proposal, along with several allegations the city has made against the group.
The judge is scheduled to consider Coffing’s motions Thursday.