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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Top Fla GOP bundler sues new Fla GOP finance chair

2

April

desai1.It's a legal battle between two titans in Florida Republican fundraising circles, and tens of millions of dollars are at stake.

Zach Zachariah, a Broward County cardiologist who has raised millions of dollars for GOP candidates, is suing the Florida Republican party's new finance chairman, St. Petersburg insurance executive A.K. Desai, accusing Desai of freezing him out of their jointly owned company and costing him millions of dollars by diluting his ownership share.

"In 2008 he just decided he wanted me off the board, and I'm one of the founders of the Universal Health Group," Zachariah (pictured right) said, referring to the company Desai leads with roughly 1,000 employees in downtown St. Petersburg. "Under the bylaws he just can't do that."zach.jpg

The lawsuit filed Friday in Miami-Dade circuit court contends that Desai unilaterally and improperly kicked him off Universal's board of directors and subsequently issued tens of millions of additional shares of Universal stock without authorization. As a result Desai's ownership stake in the privately held company shrank from nearly 20 percent to nearly 14 percent.

"Universal has an entity value of hundreds of millions of dollars. Therefore at least tens of millions of dollars  of (Zachariah's) ownership stake in Universal purportedly has been stripped from him," the lawsuit claims.

Desai said Monday he was unaware of the lawsuit.

Zachariah said family and friends invested nearly $30-million in Universal based on his standing and involvement.

One of those investors, Abhi Pandya of Boca Raton, said he and others are wary about the company’s directors including only Desai, his wife, and another company employee and also about the hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions the company has made. Since 2008, Universal has contributed more than $450,000 to the Florida GOP and Republican candidates.

"He’s used a lot of company money to donate to the campaigns to raise his stature," said Pandya. "But he has kept the shareholders completely in the dark."

Zachariah said Desai wanted him out after the Securities and Exchange Commission accused Zachariah of insider stock trading. The former chairman of the state Board of Governors was cleared after going to trial in 2010.

Zachariah said family and friends invested nearly $30-million in Universal based on his standing and involvement, but Desai wanted him out after the Securities and Exchange Commission accused Zachariah of insider stock trading. The former chairman of the state Board of Governors was cleared after going to trial in 2010.
 

[Last modified: Monday, April 2, 2012 5:33pm]

    

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