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Was There Ever a Sale Contract for First National Center?

What happened?

There are so many twists and turns in the First National case that I imagine a lot of people are continuing to have questions about all of the claims and reports that took place over the past year.

One particular question that tried to address this week, though it got lost in the rapid developments involving the shut-off of air conditioning and appointment of a receiver, is what really happened with the claim of a contract with California developer Stephen Goodman?

Amy Dunn, a broker representing the Neman family, which may or may not have owned the property, claimed last fall the building was under contract and set to close by Dec. 31. That sale was then tripped up when liens were filed by Howard Abselet.

On Dec. 29, 2014, I was informed by Amy Dunn the contract was on hold. Then, as litigation continued, court documents revealed in April that a $23 million sale was still pending with an undisclosed California developer.

Quote from April 29 filing by Neman's attorneys:

"On November 19, 2014, this Court ordered that it be immediately advised if “a contract to sell the First National Center property, or any portion of it, is entered into or a date is set for such a sale.” (Doc. 74). Concurrent with the filing of this Motion, FNC-OKC I, LLC and FNC-OKC II, LLC (“FNC”) have filed a notice, supported by affidavit that FNC has identified and negotiated with a buyer for First National Center. That buyer is ready, willing, and able to purchase the property for $23,000,000.00. (Doc. 132). The affidavit, which includes correspondence from both the buyer and the listing broker, sets forth the damages suffered by FNC as a result the Lis Pendens filed by Plaintiff (The “Lien”)."

Through an open records request, I confirmed in a story I broke the developer was Stephen Goodman and he confirmed a purchase contract was set to close in late July (note: at this point Dunn had quit talking to reporters).

Then two weeks ago, a new buyer, Dallas developer Mike Sarimsakci, emerged claiming he had the purchase contract – a detail confirmed in court filings by the Nemans. The attorneys for the Nemans even told the court a $1 million wire transfer was being processed as court hearings began this past week.

Surprise, surprise, that contract was “cancelled” Wednesday night and attorneys for the Nemans told the court no sale contracts exist now with either party. Attorneys for both Sarimsakci and Goodman confirmed there are no longer sale contracts with either man.

Attorneys for Goodman went on to say that while he signed his copy of the contract, contrary to reports by Dunn and others, the contract was never completed because the Nemans continued to make last minute changes that were unacceptable to Goodman (details I've included in this weekend's coverage).

What we do know now is Jim Parrack is the receiver, and he is (as he confirmed to me) tasked with operating the building, getting it back to acceptable conditions for occupancy, and finding a suitable buyer. Only Parrack can do so, because there is no clear owner of the building - that is the whole contention in the litigation involving Simon Barlava, Howard Abselet, the Nemans and Aaron Yashouafar. Judge Stephen Friot previously concluded there is enough merit to the litigation to continue. Those who were present at the hearings this week listened to Friot explain their battle is no longer over ownership of the building, but rather, the proceeds of any sale that ensues under Parack (all of which was reported in The Oklahoman Friday, including Parrack's comments about his duties in selling the property).

Steve Lackmeyer

Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's... Read more ›