Tepper company offers $82 million to resolve claims tied to failed Rock Hill project

·6 min read
Jeff Siner/jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

A company owned by Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper will make $82 million available to resolve creditor claims tied to the team’s failed headquarters project in Rock Hill, according to a written statement released Thursday morning, and court documents.

The creditor claims are the result of GT Real Estate Holdings LLC filing for bankruptcy. GT Real Estate was formed by Tepper to build the Rock Hill project. GT Real Estate filed for bankruptcy June 1 in Delaware after construction had been halted in a dispute over money. GT Real Estate was incorporated in Delaware.

The $82 million would come from DT Sports Holding LLC, another company owned by Tepper, GT Real Estate said in a news release issued Thursday.

If approved by a judge and creditors, the Tepper company would put up the $82 million to resolve “allowable claims” that have been made by contractors, York County, and the city of Rock Hill, GT Real Estate said in the news release.

The $82 million would include $60.5 million in cash funded in a settlement trust for the benefit of contractors, subcontractors and unsecured creditors, GTRE said.

GTRE said it believes that amount would pay those creditors in full.

The plan includes $21.165 million in cash to reimburse York County for money it contributed to the project, GTRE said. York County has asked for $21 million plus interest.

The plan also includes $20 million or more from the available net proceeds — after clean-up and senior claims — of the sale of real property to make payments to the City of Rock Hill, according to the statement from GTRE.

Rock Hill claims it is owed $20 million, court documents show.

“This Plan reflects GTRE’s promise to expeditiously resolve all claims and make payments to its creditors, including to York County and the City of Rock Hill,” GTRE said in the statement.

“GTRE now has a clear path to emerge from bankruptcy made possible by substantial commitments from DT Sports Holding, which has made available to GTRE more than $82 million in cash in an effort to bring this process to an orderly and equitable conclusion. GTRE believes that the Plan is in the best interests of its creditors and anticipates that a hearing to consider approval of the Plan will occur in October of this year.”

If a federal judge and creditors in the case approve, the GT plan could end what has been a contentious legal fight over money. The bankruptcy and disputes over money owed to creditors has been ongoing since June. Construction stopped on the site in March.

DT Sports Holding already spent $20 million to finance the bankruptcy, court documents show.

‘Devil is always in the details’

Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys wasn’t too quick to jump at GT Real Estate’s offer Thursday.

Gettys told The Herald that city officials are aware of the offer and the city’s legal team will need to look through the details before any decisions are made.

“The devil is always in the details,” Gettys, a real estate attorney, said. “There’s been a lot of talk over the last six or eight months by some and we’ll do what we’ve been doing throughout and that’s been following the contracts and the terms.”

Regardless, Gettys said, the city will do what’s best for its taxpayers.

“We’ll do what’s in the best interest of the people of Rock Hill as we have throughout the process regardless of what is said out in public by other parties,” he said.

York County Councilman William “Bump” Roddey said it’s too early to call GTRE’s offer a win for the county, but it’s a step in the right direction.

“It’s exciting news,” Roddey said. “It shows good intentions, but it still has to be approved and signed and checks have to be cut before we will celebrate this moment.”

Roddey, who represents the Rock Hill area, said he hopes, for the sake of county taxpayers, that the bankruptcy court allows the plan to move forward.

“It may be damaging to some other contractors or creditors, but we’re here to obviously protect York County taxpayers first,” he said. “And if this plan going forward, gives us back our funds that were committed for the road project, then we’re definitely in favor of it.”

General contractor: Pleased progress being made

In bankruptcy court documents filed previously on June 24, Mascaro/Barton Malow, the general contractor for the project, stated it was owed around $80 million.

Michael Roeschenthaler, lead lawyer for Mascaro/Barton Malow, said Thursday he was pleased the filing by the Tepper company GTRE shows progress in the bankruptcy case.

“We are pleased to see there has been some progress in the case and look forward to working with the debtor to bring this case to an amicable conclusion,” Roeschenthaler said in an emailed statement to The Herald.

The failed project

Officials for the Panthers and leaders from Rock Hill, York County, and South Carolina said when the project was announced in 2020 that the headquarters would be a financial boon to Rock Hill and York County and South Carolina. It was to include the Panthers headquarters, practice facility and other sports and entertainment uses.

The site is on more than 200 acres off Mount Gallant Road in Rock Hill near Interstate 77.

All that ended when construction halted, and then bankruptcy was filed.

Since then, lawyers for Tepper companies, contractors, York County and Rock Hill have argued in bankruptcy court and other courts about the money. The lawyers also have argued where lawsuits should be heard and if claims are valid.

GTRE said in a statement in April after construction was halted that Rock Hill failed to issue bonds or provide the funding for the public infrastructure for the project.

Rock Hill officials have denied that the city was required to issue bonds for the project. City officials have said in court documents the city may issue bonds but was not required to do so.

York County lawsuit is separate

Unrelated to the bankruptcy, there is a lawsuit in South Carolina federal court filed by York County against three Tepper companies and the city of Rock Hill. That lawsuit remains pending.

The lawsuit alleges that Tepper’s companies — Appaloosa Management, Tepper Sports Holding and DT Sports Holding — misused $21 million of county money that was supposed to be spent on road improvements. The county’s lawsuit also claims the city of Rock Hill breached a contract to issue bonds for the project.

Efforts to reach York County officials and lawyers in the case for comment were unsuccessful Thursday.

Check back for updates.