By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
It's true. At a press event last week, the first question from reporters, right out of the box, was: "Do you have the financing for it?"
Bill Beuck, one of the main players in the deal, said, "At this time we do not have closure on financing."
For those of you who do not speak Bizalect, saying "we do not have closure on financing" is the same thing as turning your pockets inside out and saying, "Now, Baby, listen, Baby, don't you treat me this-a-way, 'cause I'll be back on my feet someday."
As you may recall, the proper response is, "Don't care if you do, 'cause it's understood: You got no money, and you just ain't no good."
Somebody wants you to do a $30 million swap, $20 million payout, $19 million dollar payoff deal, and you're required to have all your own assets in play. Well, they need to have a little skin in the game too. Otherwise you could wind up getting your asset kicked.
It's kind of like, "Let's you and me play poker. I'll bring the cards and the sandwiches. You bring the money."
Beuck did say he thinks Dallas City Limits will be able to raise the money, once the city has given him terms committing the property and the tax incentive he's seeking. He said it's difficult to get a commitment from anybody on the deal before he can show them exactly what the deal will be. That makes a certain sense, on the surface.
But on projects like Victory (American Airlines Center) and the Mercantile Building, the city was at the table with people who already had the bucks behind them--billions of bucks.
Don Hill kept telling people all week that the City Limits people will get their money, but he said the deal is very complicated, and timing is urgent.
So the city needs to hurry up and take a chance? Why?
Last week I talked about this deal with several downtown and near-downtown landowners, including Michael Anderson of Chavez Properties. He said he wasn't familiar with the Dallas City Limits deal and didn't want to comment on it directly, but he said in general terms he sees red flags whenever people try to push the timing and complexity too hard.
"I always get in a three-point stance when people tell me that it's very, very complicated and that it must be done very, very quickly," Anderson said. "When they say it's complicated and it has to be done fast, it's been my history that I usually don't have time or energy for those deals, because they usually don't pan."
Luckily for you and me, just as the council was rushing to sign, someone remembered that maybe they ought to pass some of this stuff by the lawyers first. City Attorney Tom Perkins took a look and immediately scheduled a closed-door executive session with the council. Perkins isn't discussing his position on this with reporters, he told me, because it's a confidential legal matter. Hence, the executive session.
And far be it from me to put words in Perkins' mouth, but based on body language alone, and the fact that the council stayed in its session with him for almost four hours, along with a few bits and pieces I have gleaned along the way, I can paraphrase Perkins' position on this deal as: "WARNING. YOU ARE STANDING TOO CLOSE TO THE VEHICLE."
I tried unsuccessfully several times last week to reach Beuck, the main front man for Dallas City Limits. Barnett, I was told by a public relations person, had been "called out of town." Someone else told me, "Billy Bob doesn't like big crowds and dealing with the media."
Yeah, well, how about dealing with the public, when you want the public to deal you into a $30 million poker game with public money?
Or what about this? Nobody knows which way the gambling stuff is going to turn. Real estate activity all over downtown seems to be percolating lately. The city's property is just sitting there, no urgent need to get rid of it right away.
What if we called a halt? "WARNING. YOU ARE STANDING TOO CLOSE TO THE VEHICLE." In fact, why not just put the whole thing out there on the block in a very public way, with lots and lots of lovely daylight? Let's do something not complicated, like an up-and-up auction.
Got an idea? Got some money? Come on down. Instead of rushing to complete a deal nobody can understand, why not start from scratch and do it straight up, open to all comers?
After Perkins' executive session, the council gave Dallas City Limits two weeks to answer the questions he had raised. My question is this: If the principals can't answer Perkins' queries and the deal dies, could that be a good thing? In disguise?