Thursday, February 22, 2018
Business

In court, Tampa Port Authority finally tells Liberty to back off Channelside sale

TAMPA — The Tampa Port Authority has finally responded to Liberty Channelside LLC's lawsuit to scuttle the port's deal to buy Channelside Bay Plaza from an Irish bank.

The port's response: Liberty's interests were never damaged by the port, Liberty has no standing to sue and the lawsuit was filed in the wrong court anyway.

Liberty, which once tried to buy Channelside itself, filed its lawsuit in December in the same Delaware federal bankruptcy court that is overseeing the sale of the downtown waterfront mall. Liberty wants to stop the sale, alleging that the port sabotaged Liberty's own deal to buy Channelside last summer.

But attorneys for the port argued in documents filed Wednesday that it is Liberty that is trying to strip the port's rights to Channelside.

The Tampa Port Authority and the Irish Bank Resolution Corp., or IBRC, both asked a federal bankruptcy judge to dismiss Liberty's suit — or hold off on ruling while the sale goes through.

The port said it could not sabotage a deal that never existed. Liberty never had an actual agreement with the Irish bank to buy Channelside, just letters of intent to buy the property if the port approved their deal — which the Tampa Port Authority never did.

"An agreement was never consummated between the Port and Liberty, and, thus, there was never any contractual privity between the Port and Liberty whatsoever," the port said in its response. "Rather, all that is alleged is the existence of negotiations between the Port and Liberty for a potential agreement."

Channelside Bay Plaza actually has two owners: The port owns the land, but the Irish bank owns the building, having foreclosed on it in 2010. Both had to agree on the choice of a new developer to turn the complex around, but never could.

Last summer, when Liberty negotiated a deal with the IBRC to buy Channelside, the port exercised its veto power and rejected the deal. Liberty needed port approval for the deal, but negotiations turned hostile. The port's governing board voted to end Liberty's deal with the bank in May.

Then in September, the port decided to sign its own deal to buy Channelside for $5.75 million. But the Irish bank also sought U.S. bankruptcy protection for its American assets, so the sale has to be approved by a federal judge. That's where the sale has been stalled.

Last week Channelside's owner, the IBRC, asked the federal judge to quickly approve the sale to the port. Liberty filed a response: It wants the judge to end the port's sale agreement and instead auction Channelside off.

But the port said Liberty has no standing to sue either the port or bank because it is not a party to the purchase agreement: "A person who is not a party to a contract cannot bring any cause of action based on the contract."

The port also argued that Liberty filed suit in the wrong court. Any claims Liberty has against the port — and Liberty appears to want the port to pay it damages — should be resolved in state court.

In fact, the sale is part of a settlement of the Hillsborough Circuit Court lawsuit between the port and bank. The Channelside sale needs the approval of both a federal judge and a state judge.

But if Liberty files a lawsuit in Hillsborough Circuit Court, too, that could mean yet another delay in the already-delayed Channelside deal.

Comments
CareerSource jobs chief Edward Peachey could soon be out of work

CareerSource jobs chief Edward Peachey could soon be out of work

CLEARWATER — The heads of the Pinellas and Hillsborough jobs boards will hold emergency meetings in the coming days to consider firing president and CEO Edward Peachey. Jack Geller, board chairman of CareerSource Pinellas, and Dick Peck, chair...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Hillsborough commissioners ask CareerSource chief to step down or be fired

Hillsborough commissioners ask CareerSource chief to step down or be fired

TAMPA –– Hillsborough County commissioners voted Wednesday to ask embattled jobs center leader Ed Peachey to either resign or face termination over concerns the agency inflated job placement numbers with the state. Chairwoman Sandy Murman said commis...
Updated: 12 hours ago
St. Pete's World Liquors sign will live on at new home

St. Pete's World Liquors sign will live on at new home

A local landmark for a half century isn't coming down for good.
Published: 02/21/18
Investor calls for Bloomin’ Brands to let Outback Steakhouse stand alone

Investor calls for Bloomin’ Brands to let Outback Steakhouse stand alone

TAMPA — A second activist investor is calling for a big shake-up at Bloomin’ Brands Inc. In a letter to Bloomin’s CEO, Barington Capital Group, a New York-based investment firm, urged the Tampa-based restaurant conglomerate to let ...
Published: 02/21/18

Uber unrolls new pool service that could drastically cut fare

A new way to Uber is coming to Florida, but the "Express Pool" feature is only rolling out in Miami and seven of other cities to start.That means Tampa Bay will have to wait and see if it will get access to Uber’s latest offering, which links riders ...
Published: 02/21/18
Clearwater Beach named No. 1 in U.S. by TripAdvisor

Clearwater Beach named No. 1 in U.S. by TripAdvisor

A reigning champion for sand and sunshine, Tampa Bay is once again home to what’s been deemed the best beach in the country. Clearwater Beach was named the best beach in the U.S. for 2018 by the popular travel site TripAdvisor reclaiming the crown tw...
Published: 02/21/18
This week food fests celebrate collard greens and Jewish foods

This week food fests celebrate collard greens and Jewish foods

FIELD OF GREEN: COLLARD FESTOn Saturday you can devote your whole day to the beauty of collard greens. Well, that’s the jumping off point. Collards are the "central ingredient" at the Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival at St. Petersburg’s Historic Deuc...
Published: 02/21/18
Pasco Business Digest for Feb. 23

Pasco Business Digest for Feb. 23

Business DigestBrieflyCHUY’S RESTAURANT TO OPEN: Chuy’s, the Austin-based Tex-Mex restaurant, will open its first Tampa Bay area location this spring near Cypress Creek Town Center in Wesley Chapel. The restaurant at 25750 Sierra Center Blvd., Lutz, ...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Hernando Business Digest for Feb. 23

Business digestCHAMBER RIBBON-CUTTINGS: The Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce will have two ribbon-cuttings in the coming week:• Access Health Care Physicians/Dr. Janice Rodriguez, 5290 Applegate Drive, Spring Hill, 10 a.m. Feb. 23. Call To...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tampa Bay homes prices soar by double-digits in January

Tampa Bay homes prices soar by double-digits in January

Home prices soared in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties in January, the highest gains in several months. Prices for single family homes also rose in Hernando and Pasco as the shortage of available homes showed no immediate sign of easing. The bay a...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/21/18