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Partnership Splits Over Sour Development Deals : Real estate: Home builder John E. Wertin and George Argyros have had a falling out over finances.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

One of Southern California’s biggest home builders and a heavy hitter who once owned the Seattle Mariners baseball team have parted ways over real estate deals that went sour.

John E. Wertin owns Woodcrest Development Inc. of Irvine, the eighth-largest home builder in Southern California last year. George Argyros, who sold the Mariners a few years ago, is one of the largest apartment owners in Orange County. The two are partners in several large development deals.

Late last week, Wertin had four of the partnerships file for liquidation in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Santa Ana so that the houses and land could be sold and creditors repaid.

The action was opposed by Argyros and David Ball, a partner in the deals and president of Argyros’ Arnel Development Co. in Costa Mesa.

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Woodcrest, Argyros and Ball formed their partnerships in late 1987 when they bought several thousand acres from Campeau Corp., the large Canadian developer and department-store owner.

The land, which the partners bought for $110 million, included the big Bryant Ranch in Yorba Linda, which came with approval from the city to build 1,700 homes. Other parcels were in San Juan Capistrano, the planned community of Lake Hills near Riverside and a business park in San Bernardino.

Wertin’s companies managed the partnerships that built on the land; Argyros and Ball invested in those partnerships through two companies they owned, JLA Associates and DLB Financial.

But the two sides eventually had a falling out over finances. Argyros and Ball sued Wertin, and Wertin countersued. Those cases still are pending.

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Wertin, meanwhile, had other troubles: As the recession made a shambles of the housing market, Woodcrest Development began to have trouble selling homes. The company said last week that it will shut down almost completely by the end of this month.

In January, Wertin’s lender, Bank of America, went so far as to get a court order barring Wertin from selling much of his private property, including his homes in Corona del Mar and San Clemente.


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