Investors May Try to Block Land Deal Between Hope and Conservancy : Lawsuit: Joseph Edmiston, the conservancy’s director, says litigation will not endanger the deal.
An attorney representing investors who had wanted to buy property from entertainer Bob Hope said they might try to block the comedian’s proposed sale of thousands of acres to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.
A Tennessee developer, Terrence S. Parks, who negotiated to buy much of the land that Hope recently agreed to transfer to the conservancy, sued the comedian and several others last year. Parks and two other plaintiffs allege that Hope and people who said they represented the entertainer deceived them into investing about $500,000 before the land deal fell through, Parks’ attorney Andrew Doty said.
Doty said the intent of last year’s suit was to force the sale of the land to Parks. But the developer may now seek to have the proposed sale invalidated.
“I don’t know what we will do, but we have that option,” Doty said.
Doty said his clients might ask the trial judge to nullify the property transfer if they win their lawsuit. A trial date for the suit, filed in January, 1989, has not been set.
Hope agreed last month to donate and sell 5,700 acres to the conservancy for $20 million if the National Park Service approves a controversial land swap in Cheeseboro Canyon. The federal agency has not decided whether to approve the swap.
Joseph T. Edmiston, the conservancy’s executive director, said the litigation will not endanger the conservancy’s acquisition of Hope’s property in the Santa Monica and Santa Susana mountains.
“Our rights are secure and that’s what our attorney says,” Edmiston said.
Edmiston said the suit’s plaintiffs could not jeopardize the land deal because they never filed a lis pendens --a notice to would-be purchasers that the property is the subject of litigation.
Hope’s attorney, Payson Wolff, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Hope’s decision to allow his property to become parkland surprised the suit’s plaintiffs, who had filed suit to force Hope to sell the disputed mountain property and a site in Burbank for $33 million, Doty said.
Nearly all of the $500,000 that Parks and the two California plaintiffs, Pash International Ltd. Inc. and Toluca Park Square Ltd., invested in the project went to W. Anthony Curtis, a local businessman, Doty said.
According to Doty, Curtis borrowed about $600,000 from the plaintiffs while the real estate deal was being put together. Curtis told Parks that he was lining up partners on the East Coast to also invest in the property.
In an interview, Curtis said he could not say whether he had accepted any money from the plaintiffs for legal reasons. He said the deal collapsed because buyers did not fulfill their financial obligations.
Curtis said he would like Hope to reimburse everyone who lost money on the failed real estate transaction.
Doty said Parks never questioned Curtis’ legitimacy because the businessman showed him correspondence from Hope. In one letter, Hope said he supported the proposed sale, Doty said.
“We never would have gotten involved if we didn’t think there was some legitimacy to this thing and that’s what Bob Hope provided,” Doty said.