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Date of Issue: June 22, 2006

NBA player signs on to GSR legal battle

Star center Theo Ratliff of the National Basketball Association’s Portland Trailblazers has jumped into the middle of the ongoing troubles of embattled GSR Development LLC and principals Robert Byrne and Steve Noriega.

Ratliff filed a legal notice in the Manatee County Circuit Court last week claiming that he has a contract to purchase GSR’s model home at its Villa Rosa project on South Bay Boulevard in Anna Maria and he’s entitled to ownership of that house and proceeds from any sale before any other creditors.

Ratliff, then playing for the Atlanta Hawks, signed a contract on April 20, 2004, agreeing to pay $2.5 million for the house when it was completed. Ratliff put down $175,000 in “earnest money” for the house, which was recently featured in Manatee County’s annual Parade of Homes.

Sources close to the GSR legal troubles indicate that Ratliff is simply protecting his interests by filing the legal notice. The house is likely worth considerably more today than the $2.5 million purchase price, a source said.

“He’s saying that legally, he has a contract to be the owner of that house and property before anyone else who has a claim against GSR can get it,” the source, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

While the model home is finished, Ratliff can’t complete the purchase contract because the Villa Rosa lots have not been replatted, despite a final site plan approval from the Anna Maria City Commission more than two years ago.

GSR was reportedly unable to obtain the engineering company’s final replat for the project because the company was never paid. Delta Engineering of Sarasota subsequently filed two liens against GSR. The replat that subdivided the property into lots has to be filed in circuit court before any lots could be legally sold to individual owners.

In addition to the notice filed by Ratliff last week, the legal woes of GSR/Byrne/Noriega continue to mount.

Freedom Bank of Tampa filed a lawsuit against the company and Byrne and Noriega individually on June 9, claiming they had defaulted on a $200,000 loan made Feb. 1, 2005, in which both gave a personal guaranty to repay the money. No monies were ever repaid to Freedom Bank, the suit alleges, and the bank now considers the loan in default.

The legal troubles of GSR and Byrne/Noriega are further complicated by liens filed against various Byrne properties by his estranged wife, Arlene. The couple are in the midst of divorce proceedings, according to circuit court records.

Byrne has been attempting to divest himself of a number of his properties. The multiple listing service used by Manatee County real estate agents currently lists 12 properties Byrne owns for sale.

The total amount of lawsuits and liens filed against GSR, Noriega and/or Byrne now exceeds $12 million, exclusive of an unspecified amount in a legal action filed by Ed Furfey of New Jersey. Eleven lawsuits, legal actions and liens have been filed against GSR/Byrne/Noriega since March 1, and more are expected.

Several attorneys involved in the various legal actions have suggested that bankruptcy protection or reorganization might be the next logical step for GSR. One attorney indicated that the creditors themselves could force GSR into bankruptcy proceedings.

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