Trump builder fires back at 13 buyers


POSTED: Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Attorneys for Irongate, developers of the Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk, filed a complaint yesterday against the buyers of 11 units in state Circuit Court demanding a jury trial.

The suit alleges that two defendants — in particular, brothers Hamid and Majid Mani — committed breach of contract and negligently misrepresented their ability to buy the four most expensive units at the Trump tower for about $13 million.

Also, the suit said that Hamid Mani said last month that the brothers could not qualify for traditional financing and did not want to close on the four units.

In other words, it was buyers' remorse.

The two brothers from San Diego were provided with project documents informing them that hotel mogul Donald Trump granted the developer a license to use his name, says the suit.

The sales contract dating back to November 2006, according to the suit, says in clear, unambiguous terms, “;In the event that the Trump license shall be terminated under the terms thereof, all unit owners will be required to cease using the Trump marks and any other trademarks, trade names or service marks bearing the Trump name.”;

But it was not until 2 1/2 years after the sales contract that Mani asked for a copy of the Trump license.

Besides alleging that the brothers tried to extort concessions from the developer, the suit says they also convinced other parties to breach their contracts.

In all the suit names 13 individuals — the same plaintiffs in a suit filed Wednesday by Honolulu attorney Warren Price seeking a full return of their deposits, plus interest.

The defendants, in all, bought 11 units totaling about $21.9 million.

In that suit, Price says that Irongate violated state law by failing to disclose the terms of its license deal with Trump.

Irongate calls Price's suit a “;sham lawsuit,”; part of a broader plan to devalue the project, and also alleges a civil conspiracy by all defendants.

“;It is utterly groundless,”; says Price of the Irongate lawsuit filed yesterday. “;It is swinging in the dark.”;

Price said according to Irongate's sales contract, these sorts of claims cannot be brought against buyers until 20 days after a default notice, which would be Aug. 4.

Payments for the units were due last Wednesday, the same day the suit was filed.

In November 2006 all 464 units (now combined into 462 units) in the 38-story Trump Waikiki tower were sold simultaneously in Tokyo and Honolulu for more than $700 million, setting a sales record.

Price said allegations that the Mani brothers, both prominent eye doctors, could not get financing to buy the four units are false.

“;That is absolutely false and defamatory,”; said Price. “;This is nothing but a frustration attempt to slow down our case. The charges of conspiracy are utter nonsense. The Mani brothers do not even know any of the other plaintiffs in our case.”;

But Lane Hornfeck, the attorney for Irongate, said under the law, the disclosure was more than sufficient.

“;Irongate filed suit today against certain individuals who we think appear to be having a case of buyers' remorse,”; said Hornfeck. “;Irongate clearly disclosed the existence of a revocable license for the Trump name for the project, and the lawsuit claiming the contrary is simply without merit.”;

She declined to disclose how many buyers paid for their units in full last Wednesday in time for a target September closing date. The tower is slated to open in early November, and recently began accepting bookings starting Nov. 16.

“;More importantly, we understand that like all projects committed to his name, Trump is committed to this project,”; she said.

“;By filing a suit against these individuals, Irongate is sending a clear message that it will take necessary action to protect the project for the benefit of all buyers and the Honolulu community as a whole.”;

Price said he would respond accordingly to the Irongate suit.

Meanwhile, nine additional plaintiffs have joined his Circuit Court suit, he said, with possibly more to come.

“;Here's what they're saying: Even though we said nothing about this license, the buyers had a duty to investigate about the license,”; said Price. “;That is simple nonsense.”;

Given that Trump terminated the license for his name on a project in Baja California, leaving buyers hanging with $35 million in deposits, Price says the Waikiki buyers have a right to be concerned.

“;What happened in Baja is troubling,”; he said. “;It's troubling to businesses here, and simply shows the license could be terminated.”;