Trump tower standoff stepped up

The developer and the tycoon are waging a towering court fight.

By JAMES THORNER, Times Staff Writer
Published January 4, 2008

In February 2005, Donald Trump blazed into Tampa with his new bride on his arm to announce the sales kickoff of Trump Tower Tampa.

It's nearly three years later, and the 52-story condo tower remains more a fixture in the courts than on the building site at 111 S Ashley Drive.

Not only did developer SimDag LLC miss a self-imposed December deadline to conclude financing for the project but on Wednesday, SimDag answered a lawsuit Trump filed in May by countersuing the New York tycoon.

SimDag alleges that Trump, by going public with the lawsuit in May, breached a confidentiality agreement.

Trump revealed that he was to receive 50 percent of the profits on the sale of the $300-million tower's 190 condos. In return, SimDag was supposed to affix the Trump brand to a luxury high-rise, where penthouse units top out at $6-million.

"The license agreement provides ... that the parties will not, under any circumstances, disclose the existence of the licensing agreement or its terms," the SimDag countersuit reads, in part.

The Trump Organization in New York declined to comment about the project beyond confirming that negotiations were continuing. Trump has been trying to recover more than $1-million in unpaid licensing fees. SimDag's attorney didn't return a call from the Times.

The tower remains little more than a vacant lot on the Hillsborough River.

To provide last-ditch financing for the tower, SimDag recruited a New York hedge fund and sketched out a resurrection plan at a meeting with condo buyers on Oct. 24. SimDag pushed back the grand opening from December 2008 to December 2010 and asked buyers to re-up their soon-to-expire contracts another two years.

Trump Tower history

February 2005: Arriving in a limousine with his new wife, Donald Trump helps launch the 52-story skyscraper lauded as a new standard of luxury in Tampa.

March 2006: Developer SimDag LLC holds a groundbreaking at the site, though the project hasn't secured financing. Trump is conspicuously absent.

July 2006: The project's former general contractor files a lien for unpaid bills of more than $1-million.

August 2006: Developers reveal that soil instability on the riverfront lot could delay the project for months, spoiling the planned December 2008 opening.

January 2007: Disgruntled condo buyers begin filing lawsuits to get deposits back.

May 2007: Frustrated over lack of progress and $1-million in unpaid licensing fees, Trump sues SimDag and demands his name be pulled from the project.

August 2007: SimDag promises to secure a financing deal from a New York private hedge fund or else refund deposits. The agreement doesn't materialize.

October 2007: SimDag holds a closed-door meeting with condo buyers and promises a financing deal by the end of the year. The completion date is pushed to December 2010. Scenario includes Trump dropping his lawsuit.

January 2008: Failing to finalize financing by year's end, SimDag countersues Trump, alleging the tycoon breached a confidentiality agreement by going public with complaints in May.