Blue Devil Ventures sued for millions

Creditors want loans repaid

Staff WritersMay 28, 2009 

— Two giants -- a petroleum company and an NFL linebacker -- say they are owed millions of dollars from a development team including two former Duke University basketball stars.

Chevron filed suit in federal court alleging that Christian Laettner, Brian Davis and Durham investor Thomas Niemann have not repaid a $1.5 million loan made in April 2007 to redevelop the Chesterfield Building in downtown Durham.

In a separate suit, a Maryland company led by Shawne Merriman, a Pro Bowl linebacker for the San Diego Chargers, accuses Laettner and Davis of failing to abide by terms of a $3 million loan.

Laettner and Davis, members of Duke national championship teams in 1991 and 1992, teamed up with Niemann in 1995 to start Blue Devil Ventures. The group is known locally for turning Liggett & Myers tobacco warehouses into a mix of offices and apartments known as West Village.

Chevron alleges that its loan was to be repaid with interest by Sept. 1, 2008. Now Chevron is asking the federal court to rule that Laettner, Davis and Niemann are in default.

"We're confident we're going to work out a solution and get it resolved," Niemann said.

A Chevron lawyer declined to comment.

In the other suit, filed in the Maryland Southern District, Merriman says he agreed to lend Laettner and Davis $3 million in two installments and he would obtain ownership in real estate projects owned and developed by Blue Devil Ventures. Merriman is asking a judge to order the two to pay back the $3 million plus interest and to give Merriman his ownership interests in the projects.

Efforts to reach Laettner, Davis and lawyers for Merriman were not successful late Wednesday. Niemann was not named in that suit.

Many real estate developers, particularly those who borrowed money as the market was ramping up, are struggling to cover or refinance debts as leasing declines and lenders tighten up.

The cases are the latest legal fights for Laettner and Davis.

On May 14, a federal judge in Washington ordered Davis and Ball Street Ventures, another development company he and Laettner are associated with, to pay $687,230 plus interest to Bryan K. Simms.

He left his job as a former vice president at Lehman Brothers to take a seven-figure job with Laettner and Davis, according to a court filing.

anne.blythe@newsobserver.com or 919-932-8741

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