The Assemi family has made a nearly $55 million offer to buy the Fig Garden Financial Center in northwest Fresno and its adjacent property from the troubled partnership of longtime mega-developers Richard Gunner and George Andros.
The offer was revealed Wednesday in Fresno County Superior Court, where Gunner is seeking to sell the partnership’s prime asset to the Assemi family and dissolve his business relationship with Andros that dates back to the late 1960s.
Gunner and his attorney, Walter Whelan, attended the hearing in Judge Jeffrey Hamilton’s courtroom that began late Tuesday afternoon and wrapped up Wednesday morning. Farid Assemi, whose family has extensive real estate developments in Fresno, also attended.
Richard Gunner, 77, has sued his longtime friend and business partner, George Andros, 79, for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract and to dissolve their partnership.
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Andros did not attend; Fresno attorneys James Wilkins and Emory Wishon III represented him.
Gunner, 77, has sued Andros, 79, for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract and to dissolve their partnership.
In court, Whelan told Hamilton that Gunner wants to sell the Fig Garden Financial Center and its adjacent 4.5 acres of residential mixed-use development to the Assemi family because Andros is in a financial mess that includes tax liens and judgments against the partnership.
Whelan said the partnership is at a critical juncture because a $38.5 million loan secured by the Fig Garden Financial Center comes due on June 15. Because of Andros’ financial condition, Whelan told the judge that refinancing the loan was not possible.
Whelan also told the judge that Andros has resisted efforts by Gunner to sell the Fresno landmark to the Assemi family. For months, Gunner has called Andros, but Andros won’t return Gunner’s calls, Whelan told the judge.
To settle the dispute, Whelan asked Hamilton to appoint a receiver, a person who will protect the partnership’s assets until the legal dispute is resolved.
Wilkins and Wishon objected to appointing a receiver because they said the Assemi family is not the only offer on the table.
One offer is around $55.9 million, which Hamilton said comes from a group that includes Bay Area developer Ronald Baptiste. According to Wilkins and Wishon, if Gunner signs an agreement with Baptiste, Baptiste will put down $1 million within 30 days to secure financing for the Fig Garden Financial Center and its adjacent properties. If Baptiste doesn’t follow through in getting financing for the Fig Garden Financial Center in 30 days, he will forfeit the $1 million to Gunner, and Gunner will be able to sell the property to Assemi or whomever he wants without opposition from Andros, the two attorneys told Hamilton.
But Whelan said Andros is a partner in the Baptiste group, which Whelan says was set up about two weeks ago and is looking for a lender for a $54 million loan.
There’s no meat behind these other offers.
Judge Jeffrey Hamilton, who said an offer by the Assemi family was the only legitimate one
Hamilton also showed concern about the Baptiste agreement, saying it “was not a bona fide offer at all,” partly because Baptiste’s group has not revealed in court documents if it has the financial standing to pull off such a deal.
Hamilton said the only legitimate offer – $54.9 million – came from the Assemi family. “There’s no meat behind these other offers,” Hamilton said. “They are like pie in the sky.”
In the end, Hamilton appointed a receiver who will assess the Assemi offer and any other legitimate offer for the financial center. Once a purchase agreement has been finalized, both sides and the receiver will return to court so Hamilton can decide whether the sale of the financial center can go through.
After the hearing, Gunner, Assemi and their lawyers declined to comment. But in court, Whelan said that Assemi wanted to finalize the purchase of the financial center complex by Friday or as soon as possible. Whelan said time is critical because Assemi already has lined up financing for the purchase.