Creditors file to force Focus Property Group CEO Ritter into personal bankruptcy

The end of the recession hasn’t meant the end to financial woes for a high-profile Las Vegas developer.

Three creditors have filed to force John Ritter, chairman and CEO of Focus Property Group, into personal involuntary bankruptcy.

Pacific Western Bank, SV Litigation SPE LLC, and Multibank 2009-1 RES-ADC Venture LLC filed the case Monday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Nevada. The petition seeks to place Ritter into Chapter 7 bankruptcy to liquidate assets and collect $25.6 million in loan guarantees that Ritter personally made.

At least one of the creditors has an agreement with Ritter in which the developer acknowledges his unpaid debt, said Gerald Gordon, a partner in the Las Vegas law firm of Garman Turner Gordon. Gordon represents the creditors.

Two others already have judgments against Ritter, Gordon added.

He said he expects other creditors with judgments against Ritter to join the case soon.

An attorney for Ritter said in a Thursday statement that Las Vegas’ status as “ground zero for the Great Recession and housing crisis” had a “very negative effect” on Ritter’s financial condition, as it did for other local developers.

Since the recession, Ritter “has consistently attempted to work with his creditors to reach constructive and consensual solutions and has successfully resolved the vast majority of his outstanding obligations,” said Roberto Kampfner of the law firm of White & Case LLP. “Mr. Ritter fully intends to continue that effort notwithstanding the involuntary filing against him and hopes his creditors will do the same. Importantly, the involuntary filing is against Mr. Ritter alone and is not a filing against Focus Property Group. Mr. Ritter has no comment at this time on the merits of the petition, but looks forward to defending himself in court.”

At issue are properties that Ritter owned through Focus. He sought investors to help develop the properties, but he personally backed the loans. When property values tanked, Ritter himself had to make good on the deficiencies.

Gordon said he’s not sure where the properties were, but he said “they’re long gone or dealt with.”

It’s not Ritter’s first brush with financial trouble.

During the housing bubble, his company bought large tracts of federal land at highly inflated prices through public auctions.

Along with seven home builders, Focus spent $557 million on 1,953 acres of Bureau of Land Management property in 2004 for the 8,500-home Inspirada master plan. In 2005, it spent another $510 million on 1,700 acres at U.S. Highway 95 and Fort Apache Road, with plans for a 16,000-home master plan called Kyle Canyon Gateway.

But by February 2008, home sales across the Las Vegas Valley had plummeted. Focus could no longer cover interest payments on the Kyle Canyon property. Wachovia Bank foreclosed on the land in November 2008 before a single home was built.

At Inspirada, Focus and its partners sold about 650 homes before JPMorgan Chase forced the developers into involuntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2010.

Both projects have new owners and are back under development. Olympia Cos., which developed Southern Highlands, has reimagined Kyle Canyon as Skye Canyon, a 9,000-home master plan with an outdoors-focused lifestyle. Homes are under construction now and a grand opening is planned for March 16.

At Inspirada, four builders led by Pardee Homes began rolling out dozens of new models in 2014.

Focus has had success with some projects.

Its 3,500-acre Mountain’s Edge, at Blue Diamond Road and Rainbow Boulevard, was the nation’s fifth best-selling master plan in 2014, with 609 sales, or about 10 percent of the local new-home market, according to Maryland consulting firm RCLCO.

Focus’ 1,200-acre Providence at Grand Teton Drive and Hualapai Way ranked No. 13 in 2015, with 452 sales, or about 6.5 percent of the local market.

Both communities are close to build-out.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Contact Jennifer Robison at Find @_JRobison on Twitter.

Caesars Forum Meeting Center
Caesars broke ground Monday on its $375 million Caesars Forum Meeting Center (convention center) just east of the High Roller observation wheel. (Caesars Entertainment)
Technology reshapes the pawn shop industry
Devin Battersby attaches a black-colored device to the back of her iPhone and snaps several of the inside and outside of a Louis Vuitton wallet. The device, installed with artificial intelligence capabilities, analyzes the images using a patented microscopic technology. Within a few minutes, Battersby receives an answer on her app. The designer item is authentic.
Recreational marijuana has been legal in Nevada for one year
Exhale Nevada CEO Pete Findley talks about the one year anniversary of the legalization of recreational marijuana in Nevada. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Young adults aren't saving for retirement
Financial advisors talk about saving trends among young adults. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
President Trump’s tariffs could raise costs for real estate developers, analysts say
President Donald Trump made his fortune in real estate, but by slapping tariffs on imports from close allies, developers in Las Vegas and other cities could get hit hard.
Las Vegas business and tariffs
Barry Yost, co-owner of Precision Tube Laser, LLC, places a metal pipe into the TruLaser Tube 5000 laser cutting machine on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Nevada Film Office Connects Businesses To Producers
The director of the Nevada Film Office discusses its revamped locations database and how it will affect local businesses. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Opendoor isn't the typical house flipping company
Unlike most house flippers, the company aims to make money from transaction costs rather than from selling homes for more than their purchase price.
The Venetian gondoliers sing Italian songs
Gondolier Marciano sings a the classic Italian song "Volare" as he leads guests through the canals of The Venetian in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Building In Logandale
Texas homebuilder D.R. Horton bought 43 lots in rural Logandale. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Indoor farming in Southern Nevada
Experts discuss Nevada's indoor farming industry. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Fontainebleau could have become a Waldorf Astoria
Months after developer Steve Witkoff bought the Fontainebleau last summer, he unveiled plans to turn the mothballed hotel into a Marriott-managed resort called The Drew. But if Richard “Boz” Bosworth’s plans didn’t fall through, the north Las Vegas Strip tower could have become a Waldorf Astoria with several floors of timeshare units. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LVCVA CEO Rossi Ralenkotter announces plans to retire
Rossi Ralenkotter, CEO of the LVCVA, on Tuesday confirmed a Las Vegas Review-Journal report that he is preparing to retire. Richard N. Velotta/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Cousins Maine Lobster to open inside 2 Las Vegas Smith’s stores
Cousins Maine Lobster food truck company will open inside Las Vegas’ two newest Smith’s at Skye Canyon Park Drive and U.S. Highway 95, and at Warm Springs Road and Durango Drive. Cousins currently sells outside some Las Vegas Smith’s stores and at Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas home prices to continue to rise, expert says
Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, gives homebuyers a pulse on the Las Vegas housing market. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NV Energy announces clean energy investment
The company is planning to add six solar projects in Nevada, along with the state's first major battery energy storage capacity. Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal
3 Mario Batali restaurants on Las Vegas Strip to close
Days after new sexual misconduct allegations were made against celebrity chef Mario Batali, his company announced Friday that it will close its three Las Vegas restaurants July 27. Employees of Carnevino Italian Steakhouse, B&B Ristorante and Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria, all located in The Venetian and Palazzo resorts, were informed of the decision Friday morning. Bastianich is scheduled to visit the restaurants Friday to speak to employees about the next two months of operation as well as how the company plans to help them transition to new positions.
Nevada has its first cybersecurity apprenticeship program
The Learning Center education company in Las Vegas has launched the first apprenticeship program for cybersecurity in Nevada. It was approved by the State Apprenticeship Council on May 15. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas union members voting to authorize the right to strike
Thousands of Las Vegas union members voting Tuesday morning to authorize the right to strike. A “yes” vote would give the union negotiating committee the power to call a strike anytime after June 1 at the resorts that fail to reach an agreement. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Small businesses struggle to find qualified candidates
A 2018 survey found that over two-thirds of small businesses in Nevada find it somewhat to very difficult to recruit qualified candidates. Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Nevada secretary of state website offers little protection against fraudulent business filings
Property developer Andy Pham tells how control of his business was easily seized by another person using the secretary of state website.
Caesars may be going solo in its marijuana policy
Several Southern Nevada casino companies aren’t following Caesars Entertainment’s lead on marijuana testing.
How much is the Lucky Dragon worth?
Less than a year-and-a-half after it opened, the Lucky Dragon was in bankruptcy.
Gyms and discount stores take over empty retail spaces
Grocery stores used to draw people to shopping centers. But many large retail spaces have been vacant since 2008. Discount stores like goodwill and gyms like EOS Fitness are filling those empty spaces, and helping to draw shoppers back in. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Funding source of Las Vegas stadium for the Raiders is sound, expert says
The stadium is funded in part by $750 million of room taxes, the biggest such tax subsidy ever for a professional sports stadium. Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West and The Lincy Institute at UNLV, says that is a good use of public funds. (Richard Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas needs light rail, expert says
Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West and the Lincy Institute said he is afraid of a "congestion mobility crisis." Las Vegas needs a light rail system, he said, to accommodate the city's growing number of attractions. (Richard Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three takeaways from Wynn Resorts' Earnings Call
Matt Maddox came out swinging in his first earnings conference call as Wynn Resorts chief executive officer, boasting of record Las Vegas quarterly revenues and applicants lining up for work.
Star Wars VR Comes to Las Vegas
Sneak peak at the new "Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire" VR experience at the Grand Canal Shoppes.
Elaine Wynn continues her fight to change Wynn Resorts board
Elaine Wynn, the largest shareholder of Wynn Resorts Ltd., is seeking to kick a friend of her ex-husband Steve Wynn off the company’s board of directors. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zillow is getting into house flipping in Las Vegas
Las Vegas Review-Journal real estate reporter Eli Segall says flipping houses has waned in popularity after the housing bubble burst.
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like