Make us your home page

(Un)Real Estate: Builder just flutters away from the disaster

Smith Family Homes built a nice house. Few can argue with that. A tour of its $500,000 model homes could leave a person green with granite countertop envy.

But what to make of this week's disclosure? It seems Smith Family Homes — fresh from bankruptcy liquidation that could leave customers, bankers and suppliers out millions of dollars — is back in business under a new name.

A week before Smith filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in July, the family started a venture called Monarch Homebuilders. The logo is a butterfly, apparently fresh from its chrysalis, with the words "A Brand New Life."

The outraged people who e-mailed me obviously hadn't signed onto the triumphant resurrection thing. They're not ready to soar with a butterfly that left so much carnage behind as a homely caterpillar.

Smith Family's debts hover in the tens of millions. Stiffed banks read like a Who's Who of Dixieland lending: Wachovia, Bank of America, SunTrust, Regions. Plumbers, landscapers, carpet layers and electricians swell the list of creditors.

Their argument is compellingly simple: You got money to start a new building business, you got money to pay off your debts. One guy complains that Smith took a $20,000 deposit and left him with a shell. Another buyer, who closed on a house this spring, gets bills from unpaid contractors. The birth of Monarch a week before the death of Smith Family smacks of premeditation.

From what little Smith has revealed, a private investor pulled the plug on its credit. But trouble had been brewing for years. As the Times wrote in May, Smith owed more than $1-million in property taxes to Pasco and Hillsborough counties.

The Smith-to-Monarch switcheroo represents quick change artistry seldom seen since Clark Kent stripped to his tights in the phone booth. But Superman was known for leaping buildings, not leaving them unfinished.

James Thorner can be reached at

(Un)Real Estate: Builder just flutters away from the disaster 08/07/08 [Last modified: Thursday, August 14, 2008 2:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Google tracking real-world sales as well as online ads


    SAN FRANCISCO — Google already monitors your online shopping — but now it's also keeping an eye on what you're buying in real-world stores as part of its latest effort to sell more digital advertising.

     Google already monitors your online shopping - but now it's also keeping an eye on what you're buying in real-world stores as part of its latest effort to sell more digital advertising. 
[Associated Press]

  2. Labor Department green-lights retirement savings rule

    Personal Finance

    WASHINGTON — A Labor Department rule that would set higher standards for the advice brokers give to retirement savers will go into effect June 9 without further delay, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said Monday.

  3. Report: CEOs got biggest raise since 2013 with Charter Communications CEO on top


    NEW YORK — The typical CEO at the biggest U.S. companies got an 8.5 percent raise last year, raking in $11.5 million in salary, stock and other compensation last year, according to a study by executive data firm Equilar for The Associated Press. That's the biggest raise in three years.

    Charter Communications CEO Thomas Rutledge -- whose company took over Bright House Networks last year -- was the highest paid CEO in 2016, according to a study carried out by executive compensation data firm Equilar and The Associated Press. 
[Associated Press file photo]
  4. For Gov. Rick Scott, 'fighting' could mean vetoing entire state budget

    State Roundup

    Every day, Gov. Rick Scott is getting a lot of advice.

    The last time a Florida governor vetoed the education portion of the state budget was in 1983. Gov. Bob Graham blasted fellow Democrats for their “willing acceptance of mediocrity.”
  5. Potential new laws further curb Floridians' right to government in the Sunshine

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — From temporarily shielding the identities of murder witnesses to permanently sealing millions of criminal and arrest records, state lawmakers did more this spring than they have in all but one of the past 22 years to chip away at Floridians' constitutional guarantees to access government records and …

    The Legislature passed 17 new exemptions to the Sunshine Law, according to a tally by the First Amendment Foundation.