Each Friday, The Legal Blitz features an article from our good friends at Sport-In-Law in an effort to fulfill our promise of providing the best sports law content on the Web. This week’s feature details the financial trouble of former Duke basketball stars Christian Laettner and Brian Davis thanks to massive debt they racked up over failed real estate investments.
Laettner and Davis had a court date this week in Washington, D.C. for their failure to repay a loan to former Duke Captain Johnny Dawkins. They could be charged with contempt of court for not adhering to the judge’s ruling last year to pay Dawkins $671,309.
The court appearance is the latest in a string of civil lawsuits the men have pending. Court documents show Laettner and Davis, individually, along with their real estate businesses owe almost $30 million in loan repayments.
Laettner and Davis first entered into a partnership in March 1999 along with Tom Niemann to launch a $36.5 million apartment complex in downtown Durham, NC. The development, West Village, was refurbished from abandoned tobacco warehouses. It was quickly filled and continues to thrive today. The success promoted the partners to expand their endeavors to shops, office spaces, and more apartments- eventually outside of Durham. The expanded threefold business model sought expansion to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. The ambitious new plans led the more conservative Niemann to leave the partnership.
The new projects have yielded little success and led to the massive loan repayments the partners now face. Their real estate operations have acted under a multitude of names beginning with Blue Ventures in Durham. The men point towards overaggressive expansion and the economic downturn of 2008 leading to the failure. However, suits were filed against Laettner and Davis for failure to repay loans prior to 2008.
Investors in the duo’s projects have included former NBA All-Star Scottie Pippen and NFL All-Pro Shawne Merriman. In August 2010, a judge ordered the men to pay Pippen $2.5 million. Laettner and Davis have only paid half the amount, so the litigation continues. Pippen had supplied the duo with money in an attempt to buy the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies. The purchase was unsuccessful as the NBA determined the men had insufficient proof of funding.
In January 2011, they were ordered to pay Merriman $3.7 million. He has yet to receive any money. Laettner and Davis contend their failure to repay the loans is not due to an unwillingness, but lack of resources. Creditors are weary that the two men are overstating their inability to make any payments.
However, the multitude of lawsuits stemming against them seems to refute that claim. In addition to lawsuits with Dawkins, Pippen, and Merriman, the men owe money to entities such as Fannie Mae and Chevron. The partners are being forced to gradually sell their successful venture of West Village to satisfy the loan repayments. Laettner and Davis appear to be the newest athletes falling on hard times after their athletic careers. Times were much better twenty years ago, when they were leading the Blue Devils to back-to-back national titles.