Business News

Goldman Sachs Bank aims to seize Moreno's BR property

by Leslie Turk

Latest in a string of lawsuits puts businessman’s long-awaited Baton Rouge development in peril.

Just when it looked like it could not possibly get any worse for Lafayette businessman Mike Moreno, it indeed has.

First, in late 2013 his Green Field Energy Services went bankrupt, and then GE Oil and Gas sued him personally for $27 million in April 2014. A year later the bankruptcy liquidating trustee sued him for $230 million and, as ABiz reported last month, Moreno claims in a lawsuit his River Ranch mansion is crumbling (don't worry, though, as he’s got a few other massive homes keeping a dry roof over his head).

Mike Moreno, in blue shirt, enters the Lafayette Parish Courthouse with his lawyers in 2014 to battle with his former company, Dynamic Industries, over the West Yard lease at the Port of Iberia. Tired of battling with Moreno in court, Dynamic eventually vacated the site. In a federal lawsuit filed July 8, Goldman Sachs Bank is seeking to seize and sell the West Yard property.
Photo by Travis Gauthier

And now, the one glimmer of hope, the project that had an inkling of a chance (most people in real estate think pulling it off laughable considering the high price he paid for the property), appears headed into the arms of Goldman Sachs.

On July 8, New York-based Goldman Sachs Bank USA sued Moreno, his wife Tiffany and a number of his various entities for defaulting on a $52 million loan he took out in Oct. 11, 2013, just two weeks before his fracking company, Green Field Energy Services, went belly-up and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It was later liquidated and went out of business.

The bank says as of June 15 it is owed $58 million in principal and interest.

Filed in federal court in Lafayette, Goldman Sachs Bank’s suit seeks to seize and sell the property pledged as collateral on the loan to Moreno — the Port Road Property (also known as the West Yard at the Port of Iberia, which formerly housed Dynamic Industries) and the Nicholson Estates Property, various tracts Moreno purchased as part of his planned River District, a 35-acre mixed use project in Baton Rouge. Over the course of seven or so years, Moreno and his sister, Dalis Waguespack, worked to accumulate property on both sides of Nicholson Drive, between Downtown and LSU. As recent as January 2014, he was touting that the development — 1,800 residential units, two hotels, 275,000 square feet of office space and 118,000 square feet of commercial space — would happen.

Fifty pages of legal descriptions of those Baton Rouge properties are attached as an exhibit in the suit; it appears Goldman Sachs wants all of it.

“The Loan Documents are secured by, among other things, a first mortgage over the Nicholson Estates Property ... and a first, second, and third mortgage on the Port Road Property,” the bank states in the suit, in which it asks the federal court to order U.S. marshals in Baton Rouge and Lafayette to move ahead on the foreclosure process for both groups of properties.

Goldman Sachs Bank is also asking for the right to appoint a “keeper” to manage the property through the process of appraisals, advertising and other necessary steps leading up to a public sale to the highest bidder.

A spokesman for the bank, who took questions from ABiz about the suit, did not respond with answers before this story was posted online.

Mike Moreno, who turns 47 later this month and appears to be selling assets to pay off some of his mounting debt, cashed out big time in 2007 through the partial sale of Moreno Group Holdings, which included offshore fabricator Dynamic Industries, a company he had purchased in 1998. According to court filings in a years-long dispute over the West Yard property and lease between Moreno and Dynamic Industries (in which Dynamic alleged multiple conflicts of interest by its former chief executive), Moreno got $300 million when he sold nearly half of Moreno Group to global private equity firm The Carlyle Group/Riverstone Holdings LLC in 2007. New York-based Riverstone Holdings’ focus is the energy and power sectors.

In June 2012, about seven months after Moreno confirmed to ABiz that he was living in Dallas temporarily to raise $300 million for his new company, which he said at the time would provide hydraulic fracturing services to the oil and gas industry, and which turned out to be Green Field Energy Services, he resigned as CEO and chairman of the board of directors of Dynamic Industries, according to court documents. ABiz sources close to Dynamic, however, say he was forced out when he refused to give up his position with Green Field.

According to Goldman Sachs’ lawsuit, Moreno is now living in Harris County, Texas, presumably Houston, one of several cities where he owns homes, he confirmed to ABiz in late 2011. Two years later, in the months leading up to Green Field’s 2013 bankruptcy, he added to his collection of stately estates, buying Troy Aikman’s former home in Dallas.

[Editor's Note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Moreno bought Dynamic Industries in 1998.]