Creditors of Washington real estate investor Dominic F. Antonelli Jr. were scheduled to meet this morning in an effort to bridge their differences instead of competing for repayment in a potentially contentious bankruptcy proceeding, a source said.
The meeting was expected to bring together bankers who negotiated a tentative out-of-court plan to restructure loans of about $1 billion and others who, objecting to that plan, filed a petition Jan. 17 asking the federal bankruptcy court in Rockville to declare Antonelli bankrupt and order his assets sold.
The meeting comes two days after the dissenting creditors hardened their position in the dispute over one of Washington's biggest and most troubled real estate empires. On Tuesday, they asked the court to place Antonelli's vast collection of undeveloped land, office buildings, hotels, shopping centers and apartment buildings under the control of an independent trustee.
They argued that Antonelli is unqualified to manage the liquidation of his many real estate investments and that conflicts of interest would prevent him from raising the most money possible for the banks and other institutions that financed his ventures.
"Apart from their passive investment in real estate projects, the Antonellis lack substantial experience in the operation, management or liquidation of real estate projects," those creditors said in court papers.
The creditors -- Riggs Bank, First American Bank, Chase Manhattan Bank, Vienna Finance Inc. and the federal agencies that took over the National Bank of Washington and Baltimore Federal Financial F.S.A. -- asked the court at a minimum to prohibit Antonelli from selling any property before his creditors have a chance to review proposed sales.
Antonelli has not formally responded to the creditors' arguments. His lawyer could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Many of Antonelli's other creditors had tentatively agreed to an out-of-court settlement of Antonelli's troubled loans that would have allowed him to sell his property over a period of years. Their theory was that they would recoup more money if they avoided the administrative costs of a bankruptcy proceeding and allowed Antonelli more flexibility in selling the property. Antonelli offered to cooperate by liquidating almost all his holdings for the benefit of his creditors.
However, Riggs Bank and the other dissenters criticized provisions of the out-of-court plan that would have allowed Antonelli and his wife Judith, who last spring claimed a combined net worth of $164.1 million, eventually to walk away from their troubled real estate projects with as much as $17.5 million. The plan would have granted the Antonellis annual lifetime allowances of $300,000 each, a $1.5 million home allowance and a $275,000 personal furnishing allowance. It would have let them earn fees for selling their real estate based on the amount of money they raised for the creditors.
One of three scenarios could unfold at today's meeting, the source said. If the creditors can reach agreement, they may stop the bankruptcy proceeding and pursue an out-of-court liquidation. If the differences that separate the two factions prove irreconcilable, the banks that negotiated the original agreement -- led by First Union National Bank of North Carolina, American Security Bank, Crestar Bank, Madison National Bank and Sovran Bank -- could press the bankruptcy court to adopt a similar agreement. Finally, if the coalitions unravel, a "free-for-all" could unfold in bankruptcy court, the source said.