Partner Of J. Mack Robinson Accused Of 'Stealing' $4.3M
Suit says Buckhead developer Peter Blum took advantage of ailing philanthropist
Lawyers for philanthropist J. Mack Robinson and his family say a longtime friend of the ailing, 90-year-old entrepreneur took advantage of his position as manager of Buckhead property they owned together to pocket $4.3 million that doesn't belong to him.
The money represents half of $8.6 million that property manager Peter E. Blum paid himself last month for what his attorney describes as "fair compensation for the unbelievable work he did." Blum managed the property, which once hosted the ESPN Zone restaurant, and negotiated a deal for Restoration Hardware to build a six-story, flagship store on the 3030 Peachtree Road site, said Blum's lawyer, Ashe, Rafuse & Hodges partner William Hill Jr.
"It distresses me to see a business dispute between two partners come to this," said Hill. Blum, he said, was entitled to pay himself the money under the terms of his contract with Robinson.
"Now they've filed a lawsuit saying he stole the money," said Hill. "He stole no money."
Blum has now been ordered to disgorge the entire $8.6 million pending resolution of the dispute. Last week, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Constance Russell also appointed a receiver to take over the company, 3030 Peachtree LLC, that Robinson and Blum formed to purchase and manage the property.
Lawyer Steven Estep was retained late last month by Robinson's wife and family to represent Robinson's company, Gulf Capital Services. Estep said Blum used his position as manager to loot most of a nearly $10 million payment to 3030 Peachtree from the ESPN Zone's owner, The Walt Disney Co., to buy out the property's lease.
"They're trying to say, 'Look it's just a squabble over a contract ... there's nothing in the agreement that says he can't do it," said Estep. "What it is, is they just want to keep all the money."
According to the suit, Robinson and Blum formed 3030 Peachtree in 1995 to purchase and develop the property just north of Pharr Road.
The deal had Robinson's company, Gulf Capital, kicking in $1,550,000 of the purchase price, and Blum contributing $400,000, along with a purchase option he held on the property. The operating agreement, which is attached to the complaint, says that each partner holds a 50 percent ownership stake in the company, with Blum assigned the duties of manager.
Blum's authority allows him to "do all the things necessary or convenient to carry out the business and affairs of the company," but, according to the agreement, he is barred from making "any substantial change in the operation or the practice of the Company" without the written consent of a majority of its members.