Influential builder Jona Goldrich on Friday denied that he had ever agreed to become a partner in bailing out the bankrupt Marina del Rey real estate empire of developer Abraham M. Lurie.
Lurie's attorney told a federal bankruptcy court Tuesday that Goldrich would support Lurie's plan to retain control of the properties.
Goldrich flatly disputed that assertion in an interview.
"I never said I was going to be a partner," he said. "I'm not his partner. I never intended to be his partner."
The prominent Culver City-based builder said he told Lurie that he was willing to invest only if it was "a real good deal" that would make money.
"I didn't commit myself to anything," he said. "The most I was going to be was an investor for $100,000."
Goldrich said he never authorized Lurie to tell the court that he had agreed to become partners in rescuing the marina properties.
"If people are desperate, they will latch onto anything," Goldrich said. He said that Lurie could "lose everything" in the bankruptcy fight. "I sort of feel sorry for him," he said.
Lurie apologized for what he called "the misunderstanding" surrounding Goldrich's role.
"I feel badly about that," he said in an interview, adding that he did not intend to mislead the bankruptcy court.
Although still optimistic about the outcome of the bankruptcy battle, Lurie acknowledged that the loss of Goldrich as a prime financial backer was a setback.
"It doesn't help," he said.
The confusion surrounding Lurie's financial backing will not enhance his bid to hang on to three hotels, two apartment complexes, shopping centers, restaurants, offices and more than 1,100 boat slips in the marina.
Lurie's estranged business partner, Saudi Arabian billionaire businessman Abdul Aziz al Ibrahim, is seeking to take over the properties. So is the Bank of Montreal, one of five banks with more than $140 million in unpaid loans on the marina holdings.
Each side has filed its own plan for reorganizing the debts on the properties. Lurie's is the least specific, promising only in general terms a $5-million infusion of cash from an unidentified Los Angeles investment group.
Pressed by one of the banks to name the investors, Lurie's attorney, Jeffrey H. Greenberg, told the bankruptcy court Tuesday, "Jona Goldrich is going to support Mr. Lurie's plan."
Outside the courtroom, Greenberg said Goldrich is "the primary backer" of Lurie's investment group, but "there were some others." He would not name them.
Goldrich, who already operates Dolphin Marina, a complex of apartments and boat slips, said he is still interested in redeveloping other properties in the marina but not necessarily with Lurie.
He expressed reservations about becoming embroiled in the fight raging over Lurie's holdings.
"At this point, I am not considering anything until the muddy water is cleared up. I don't want to be involved."
Lurie said he believes that Goldrich backed away from the deal because of the attention that it received and the intensity of the battle in bankruptcy court.
"This is more than just a real estate deal," he said. "This is a very volatile political deal between myself, the banks, and the Saudis."