A new lawsuit has revived a legal skirmish featuring Washington Nationals owner Ted Lerner over a possible local site for Amazon’s HQ2.
Lerner, along with the descendants of the late developer Albert Abramson, owns a 75 percent stake in a 44-acre parcel of land in Montgomery County that includes the now-closed White Flint Mall. The site has already been approved for 5.2 million square feet of redevelopment, but it’s also a strong contender to become the e-commerce giant’s new headquarters. Amazon has named the District, Northern Virginia, and Montgomery Country as three of its 20 final locations for the HQ2 project, which would bring an estimated 50,000 new high paying jobs and $5 billion in construction to the region. It would also increase the value of the selected site.
The descendants of Henry Reich, who own the remaining 25 percent of the former White Flint Mall land, filed a lawsuit last March alleging that on the day after Amazon officials toured the site, the Lerners and Abramsons launched an illegal campaign to strip them of their ownership stake in it. The two sides soon suspended the litigation due to a requirement that the dispute be resolved in a private arbitration; in their written agreement, according to the Reich family, the owners pledged not to take any steps to sell the property unit the arbitrator had made a decision.
But in a lawsuit filed July 24 in Montgomery County Circuit Court, the Reich family alleges that—despite this agreement—the Lerners and Abramsons are proceeding with the redevelopment of the land, without regard for the Reich family’s interests. “It became clear to the [the Reich family] that the [the Lerners and Abramsons] were continuing with the redevelopment and were in advanced discussions with Amazon,” Jeremy W. Schulman, a lawyer representing the Reich family, says in the complaint. The majority owners “kept the [Reich] Family in the dark about their plans.”
In the lawsuit, Schulman alleges that a lawyer representing the Lerners and the Abramsons refused to provide assurances that the majority owners were not “planning to circumvent the [agreement] simply devising a different plan to deprive the [Reich] family of the profits from the redevelopment and/or Amazon.” The Reich family also alleges that the Lerners and the Abramsons refused their request to review written records and other documents regarding the development of the land. The July 24 lawsuit seeks the production of those documents.
Jeffrey Abramson, who represents his family’s interest in the property, declined to comment for the story. Edward Cohen, who is Ted Lerner’s son-in-law and a representative of Ted Lerner’s interest in the property, did not respond to requests for comment. Schulman declined to comment.