NEW YORK (Reuters) - The investor who led the $8 billion acquisition of Extended Stay is being sued for a “Machiavellian scheme” to push the hotel chain into bankruptcy and to “steal” the company, according to court documents.
Two investors in the junior debt of the 680-hotel chain filed the suit in a New York state court and are seeking $314 million of compensation and damages from David Lichtenstein, his Lightstone Holdings and others, according to court documents.
Extended Stay filed for bankruptcy on June 15, two years after Lightstone borrowed $7.4 billion to purchase the company from Blackstone Group (BX.N).
Line Trust Corp Ltd and Deuce Properties Ltd, which own $214 million of Extended Stay mezzanine debt, said in the suit that senior lenders induced Lichtenstein to put the company into bankruptcy, which violated provisions of loan agreements.
Under terms of the loan documents, a Chapter 11 filing would have made Lichtenstein personally liable for $100 million. The suit says that liability was circumvented by the lenders -- Wachovia Bank, now owned by Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N); Bank of America Corp (BAC.N); U.S. Bancorp’s (USB.N) U.S. Bank; Cerberus Capital Management; and Centerbridge Partners -- which agreed to indemnify Lichtenstein if he filed for bankruptcy.
The suit says the senior lenders also agreed to create a legal war chest for Lichtenstein if he put the company in bankruptcy and offered him an equity stake in the reorganized company through a new management agreement.
Extended Stay asked the bankruptcy court in its first day of hearings for orders that included providing $5 million for Lichtenstein’s legal defense, although that provision was removed at the judge’s suggestion. The court will hear the issue again on Monday.
In addition to the suit in New York’s Supreme Court, Line Trust and Deuce Properties have filed requests with the bankruptcy court to order Lichtenstein and others to turn over documents. The attorneys for Extended Stay have asked the court to deny the request.
The New York State Supreme Court case is similar to a suit Line Trust and Deuce Properties brought against the banks in early June, which was withdrawn following the bankruptcy filing.
A Cerberus spokesman said the suit was without merit and the fund would vigorously defend itself.
U.S. Bancorp and Bank of America declined to comment. Centerbridge and Wells Fargo could not be immediately reached for comment.
The case is Line Trust Corp Ltd and Deuce Properties Ltd vs David Lichtenstein et al, New York State Supreme Court (Manhattan), No. 601951/2009.
The bankruptcy case is In re Extended Stay, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 09-13764.
Additional reporting by Deepa Seetharaman; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Gerald E. McCormick