Business

Former Duke player Laettner reaches deal with creditors to avoid bankruptcy

Christian Laettner, a former Duke basketball star whose venture into the business world left a trail of debt and creditors, has reached an agreement with creditors that could help him avoid involuntary bankruptcy.
Christian Laettner, a former Duke basketball star whose venture into the business world left a trail of debt and creditors, has reached an agreement with creditors that could help him avoid involuntary bankruptcy. Raleigh

Christian Laettner, a former Duke basketball star whose venture into the business world left a trail of debt and creditors, has reached an agreement with creditors that could help him avoid involuntary bankruptcy.

In court papers filed Monday, attorneys for Laettner outlined a repayment plan in which the 47-year-old former NBA star would divide between the creditors roughly $10 million in proceeds from the sale of Phase II of the West Village mixed-use project in downtown Durham.

The project sold nearly seven months ago for $187 million. Fuller Street Development, one of the businesses that received $28.3 million in proceeds from the sale, lists Laettner as a partner, according to court records.

The $10 million deal comes several months after five creditors started involuntary bankruptcy proceedings against Laettner. The creditors include Jonathan C. Stewart, a Carolina Panthers running back; Ernest Sims III, a former Detroit Lions linebacker; Andrew Kline, a former St. Louis Rams player; and others.

Through the filing, the creditors hoped to recoup millions in unpaid debt.

Hassan Zavareei, one of Laettner’s attorneys, described the settlement as a testament to his client’s commitment to repay his creditors to the best of his ability.

“From day one, Christian’s directive to me was to do everything I could to get as much money as possible to his creditors,” Zavareei said in a statement issued Tuesday. “He could have declared bankruptcy and walked away from these debts years ago. Instead, he hung in there and worked hard to continue the project and to maximize the repayment to his creditors.”

Laettner’s attorneys described the agreement as a “global resolution with all of his creditors” that led to Laettner’s move to seek dismissal of the involuntary bankruptcy petition filed against him in federal court.

Legal woes

West Village, set amid the new restaurants, homes and shops revitalizing Durham’s downtown, includes 609 apartments and 104,000 square feet of commercial space. The three-phase project was developed by a partnership that was led by Laettner, his former Duke teammate Brian Davis, and Tom Niemann, a graduate of Duke’s Fuqua School of Business.

Laettner earned a total of $61 million as an NBA player. Nonetheless, he has been mired in financial problems related to subsequent real estate projects, including the ambitious West Village.

In 2012, he was sued for $30 million by former Chicago Bulls stalwart Scottie Pippen and others. Shawne Merriman, a former San Diego Charger and Buffalo Bill, also has had to go to court to pursue money he loaned Laettner.

Laettner also sued his own real estate company, Blue Devil Ventures, for $10 million.

Laettner has gone before federal judges numerous times asking for extensions and reprieves to settle his debts for real estate projects in Durham, Baltimore and elsewhere.

In April 2015, Laettner was served foreclosure papers on the $3.65 million mansion he owned on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in Florida.

The groundbreaking at West Village in March 1999, drew high-profile players from the professional sports world and elsewhere.

Many investors were former teammates and friends who sunk money into the Durham project and projects elsewhere that did not bring quick returns on their investments.

Laettner is not personally receiving any sale proceeds from West Village, said Anna Haac, another of Laettner’s attorneys. But she described the project as one that has helped create “the vibrant downtown” that Durham boasts today.

“Ultimately, the West Village development is a massive success,” Haac said.

Anne Blythe: 919-836-4948, @AnneBlythe1

  Comments