A legal battle between Ronnie Mervis, the local diamond magnate, and Ronnie Cohen, the Rockville development magnate, is heating up.
"This is the king of bling versus the king of real estate," Mervis said. "It's the battle of the Ronnies."
Here's what they are fighting about in court:
Mervis is suing Cohen because he says the developer has backed out of an agreement to lease him a prime retail spot at 1775 Rockville Pike, a former Storehouse furniture location, in order to build condominiums instead and capitalize on the hot housing market.
Cohen says Mervis is severely mistaken. He doesn't want to build condos there -- despite having said earlier this year that he showed Mervis plans for such a project -- and he can't complete improvements or turn over the property because of a dispute he is having with a tenant at the site.
"It's out of my control," Cohen said.
The case looks to be headed for trial. A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge recently issued a preliminary injunction forbidding Cohen to make changes to the site. For his part, Mervis says he has no intention to settle with Cohen.
One thing is for sure: It is unlikely that either Ronnie will send the other Ronnie a birthday card for the foreseeable future.
"We are not looking for money," Mervis said. "We will not settle. We make money by selling diamonds, not by negotiating for reneged lease space. We will move in there and sell diamonds."
Cohen, for his part, says Mervis has blown the whole case out of proportion. "All he wants to do is sell more diamonds," Cohen said. "He wants to get his name in the paper and get ahead of all the other diamond dealers."
Not so, said Mervis.
"I'm the jilted bride," he said.
Digene HPV Test Endorsed
Now onto matters of life and death.
To increase use of its test for human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease that is the leading cause of cervical cancer, Digene Corp. recently has taken its case directly to women through ads on television and in magazines such as Cosmopolitan.
Now the Gaithersburg biotech firm is getting help from state legislators, who have unanimously approved a measure requiring all insurers in Maryland to cover Digene's test as part of regular cervical cancer screening for women 30 and older.
State Sen. Gloria G. Lawlah, a Democrat from Prince George's County, introduced the legislation, helping make Maryland the first state to require insurance coverage for the test.
"This new legislation further solidifies Maryland's role as a public health leader -- one reason why companies like Digene choose to locate here," said Evan Jones, Digene's chairman and chief executive. "Maryland should be commended for taking a leadership role in helping assure access to HPV testing in the state."
Chamber Spices Up Dinner
The Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce will host its 46th annual dinner June 23 at the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in North Bethesda.
The chamber is spicing things up this year, as officials noted in a recent announcement, in which they said that "this will be more than just your typical annual dinner with speeches and introductions -- this year we will entertain you with the music and political satire of the Capitol Steps."
There will also be a formal goodbye to Charles H. Atwell, the outgoing chairman, and a formal hello to Bill Robertson, the incoming chairman. The reception starts at 6 p.m. and dinner is at 7 p.m., with the laughs soon to follow.
For more information, call Louisa Hollman at 301-738-0015, Ext. 210.
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