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Earlier this year, word was
wasall set to buy Highland Park Village
from Henry S. Miller Interests, with the sale scheduled to be all packed and gift-wrapped by March. A month later, and Henry S. Miller's still in control of the Village -- though Charter Holdings CEO Ray Washburne tells Unfair Park today that "we're still working on it," and that the slow going is due, of course, to "complicated times."
But when one of the tony shopping center's biggest tenants filed a lawsuit in Dallas County District Court yesterday, well, Larry North went ahead and named everybody: Charter Holdings, Washburne and Henry S. Miller Interests.
Henry S. Miller III, who brought North into the Village in 1989, says he considers North not merely a tenant: "More than that," Miller tells Unfair Park, "he's a friend." Which is why he says he's "so hurt and dismayed and shocked" by the suit, which he still hasn't seen in full. "I was totally caught off-guard by this," he says. Washburne says he doesn't know why he was brought into the suit at all: "This is between North and the Millers." (Update: North's attorney, Larry Friedman, says, "Larry North is the heartbeat of Highland Park Village, a North Texas icon, and it's a shameful act to attempt to evict Larry North from those premises. It would be tantamount to getting rid of the Pegasus.")
Details of the suit -- and Miller and Washburne's further comments -- follow.
North claims that in January of this year -- "around the time Washburne Defendants contracted to buy HPV," alleges the suit -- North started renegotiating his lease renewal with Miller Interests, which would have resulted in at least one five-year extension "at market rate," which the suit says North and Miller Interests had agreed upon earlier.
"However, unbeknownst to North, the Washburne Defendants now had veto power over any new leases and/or extensions at HPV as a result of the pending sale of HPV between Miller and the Washburne Defendants," alleges the suit. "Washburne had other plans for North's space. Washburne had no intention of renewing North's lease even though North had a valid renewal option."
North claims in court documents that he received an e-mail from Miller that read, in part, "please believe that if it had been up to the current ownership, this deal would have been signed, sealed and delivered." The suit alleges that Washburne raised the rent on North's space in "his desperate efforts to get financing before the scheduled closing," as he promised his lender he'd do.
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Washburne says he was approached earlier this year by North, who wanted to discuss the lease agreement. Washburne says he told him, "You need to talk to the Millers.'"
Miller says he can't figure out how this turned into a lawsuit.
"There's only been goodwill toward Larry, and none of us have ill will toward him, but if this is something to interfere with the sale ..." He pauses. "I don't sue people. Never have, never will. I feel confident I can get things resolved with someone in a conversation. All I feel like we're missing here is a conversation."
North Bodies v Miller and Charter