Squeezed out

A prominent developer will sell his stake in the company his father founded under pressure from colleagues looking to force him out.

Richmond real estate developer Hank Wilton agreed Tuesday to sell his remaining shares in the Wilton Companies to an investment entity that told him it would foreclose on his house and force his wife into bankruptcy if he did not comply.

Wilton declared personal bankruptcy in September, no longer able to carry stalled residential real estate projects.

Under the agreement, a group named Mountain Investments LLC will pay $1.47 million for his shares, or $630.91 per share.

Behind Mountain Investments is Rich Johnson, the current president, CEO and chairman of the Wilton Companies, and Rodney Poole, the corporate counsel for the Wilton Companies.

Wilton said that Mountain Investment acquired a debt against him and his wife that was held by the Bank of Hampton Roads as leverage to force him to sell his shares.

“Either I had to sign it exactly the way they wanted or they were going to pull the deal and put my wife into bankruptcy, and I didn’t want to do that to her,” Wilton said.

Johnson did not return several calls requesting comment. Poole declined to comment, citing client-attorney privilege.

The shares that Wilton is selling to Mountain Investments include voting shares with special veto powers. Johnson and Poole hold the only other voting shares of the Wilton Companies, but Wilton’s veto power gave him control over company decisions.

“I think they want control, and they don’t want to have to ask me to do anything,” Wilton said.

As part of the agreement, Wilton also agreed to step down from the Wilton Companies board of directors. He will continue to work part-time for the company for the next six years with a salary of $50,000.

“I’m out and they’re in, and that’s where it stands,” Wilton said.

The Wilton Companies owns more than 25 shopping centers and more than 4,000 apartments, mostly in the Richmond area. It was founded in 1945 by Wilton’s father, E. Carlton Wilton. About seven years ago, the company was divided into shares and sold to investors, which included Wilton, Johnson, Poole and about 20 others.

Johnson and Poole, together with other unidentified investors, formed Mountain Investments in May and acquired a judgment from the Bank of Hampton Roads against Wilton and his wife, Cindy Wilton, in the amount of $6.4 million, according to Wilton and corroborated by court documents.

Wilton said that Mountain acquired the note for $3.4 million, or about half of the original amount.

He said he took that loan to pay off other short-term debts. The collateral shares were not enough to cover the loan after Wilton defaulted. The bank placed liens on the Wiltons’ home on River Road in Goochland and their North Carolina beach house.

Mountain Investment told Wilton they would foreclose on both properties and as a result force his wife into bankruptcy if he didn’t sign the agreement. By doing so, Wilton satisfied the debt held against him by Mountain Investments.

Wilton let his shares go for what he said is a very low price. The shares were valued at $1,250 three years ago and will likely be worth more several years from now after the economy recovers, Wilton said, adding that the company had to cuts its 7 percent dividend down to less than 2 percent last year. It’s just above 2 percent now, Wilton said.

Wilton’s financial troubles began several years ago when the residential real estate market tanked. He filed for bankruptcy in September 2010 with liabilities totaling $93.2 million, $28.1 million of which was owed to secured creditors mostly consisting of banks that included First Capital, Bank of Hampton Roads, Village Bank and Wells Fargo. Wilton said the case will be converted to a Chapter 7 liquidation after the agreement with Mountain is approved by the bankruptcy court next month.

Wilton said the funds from the sale of his shares would go toward paying off the unsecured creditors in his bankruptcy case.

The Wilton Companies board has two other members, Sam and Bryan Kornblau of Eagle Commercial Realty.

Their attorney, Buddy Allen with LeClairRyan, did not elaborate on the situation.

“We are in the dark, quite frankly, as to who Mountain Investments is,” Allen said.

Allen confirmed an investigation is underway to determine who else is a part of the entity, aside from Johnson and Poole.

“We have a cooperative effort with Rodney Poole and the Wilton Companies to get more information. It’s a voluntary process, and God willing we will be able to find out, for starters, exactly who Mountain Investments is,” Allen said.

As for Wilton, he said that after the bankruptcy he plans to work as a consultant and possibly pursue a couple of small developments every couple years or so with other developers.

And he’ll honor his part-time employment agreement with Wilton Companies.

“I’ll go and if they need me to do something, I’ll step up and do it,” Wilton said. “When all is said and done, I guess we’ll have to bury the hatchet.”

A prominent developer will sell his stake in the company his father founded under pressure from colleagues looking to force him out.

Richmond real estate developer Hank Wilton agreed Tuesday to sell his remaining shares in the Wilton Companies to an investment entity that told him it would foreclose on his house and force his wife into bankruptcy if he did not comply.

Wilton declared personal bankruptcy in September, no longer able to carry stalled residential real estate projects.

Under the agreement, a group named Mountain Investments LLC will pay $1.47 million for his shares, or $630.91 per share.

Behind Mountain Investments is Rich Johnson, the current president, CEO and chairman of the Wilton Companies, and Rodney Poole, the corporate counsel for the Wilton Companies.

Wilton said that Mountain Investment acquired a debt against him and his wife that was held by the Bank of Hampton Roads as leverage to force him to sell his shares.

“Either I had to sign it exactly the way they wanted or they were going to pull the deal and put my wife into bankruptcy, and I didn’t want to do that to her,” Wilton said.

Johnson did not return several calls requesting comment. Poole declined to comment, citing client-attorney privilege.

The shares that Wilton is selling to Mountain Investments include voting shares with special veto powers. Johnson and Poole hold the only other voting shares of the Wilton Companies, but Wilton’s veto power gave him control over company decisions.

“I think they want control, and they don’t want to have to ask me to do anything,” Wilton said.

As part of the agreement, Wilton also agreed to step down from the Wilton Companies board of directors. He will continue to work part-time for the company for the next six years with a salary of $50,000.

“I’m out and they’re in, and that’s where it stands,” Wilton said.

The Wilton Companies owns more than 25 shopping centers and more than 4,000 apartments, mostly in the Richmond area. It was founded in 1945 by Wilton’s father, E. Carlton Wilton. About seven years ago, the company was divided into shares and sold to investors, which included Wilton, Johnson, Poole and about 20 others.

Johnson and Poole, together with other unidentified investors, formed Mountain Investments in May and acquired a judgment from the Bank of Hampton Roads against Wilton and his wife, Cindy Wilton, in the amount of $6.4 million, according to Wilton and corroborated by court documents.

Wilton said that Mountain acquired the note for $3.4 million, or about half of the original amount.

He said he took that loan to pay off other short-term debts. The collateral shares were not enough to cover the loan after Wilton defaulted. The bank placed liens on the Wiltons’ home on River Road in Goochland and their North Carolina beach house.

Mountain Investment told Wilton they would foreclose on both properties and as a result force his wife into bankruptcy if he didn’t sign the agreement. By doing so, Wilton satisfied the debt held against him by Mountain Investments.

Wilton let his shares go for what he said is a very low price. The shares were valued at $1,250 three years ago and will likely be worth more several years from now after the economy recovers, Wilton said, adding that the company had to cuts its 7 percent dividend down to less than 2 percent last year. It’s just above 2 percent now, Wilton said.

Wilton’s financial troubles began several years ago when the residential real estate market tanked. He filed for bankruptcy in September 2010 with liabilities totaling $93.2 million, $28.1 million of which was owed to secured creditors mostly consisting of banks that included First Capital, Bank of Hampton Roads, Village Bank and Wells Fargo. Wilton said the case will be converted to a Chapter 7 liquidation after the agreement with Mountain is approved by the bankruptcy court next month.

Wilton said the funds from the sale of his shares would go toward paying off the unsecured creditors in his bankruptcy case.

The Wilton Companies board has two other members, Sam and Bryan Kornblau of Eagle Commercial Realty.

Their attorney, Buddy Allen with LeClairRyan, did not elaborate on the situation.

“We are in the dark, quite frankly, as to who Mountain Investments is,” Allen said.

Allen confirmed an investigation is underway to determine who else is a part of the entity, aside from Johnson and Poole.

“We have a cooperative effort with Rodney Poole and the Wilton Companies to get more information. It’s a voluntary process, and God willing we will be able to find out, for starters, exactly who Mountain Investments is,” Allen said.

As for Wilton, he said that after the bankruptcy he plans to work as a consultant and possibly pursue a couple of small developments every couple years or so with other developers.

And he’ll honor his part-time employment agreement with Wilton Companies.

“I’ll go and if they need me to do something, I’ll step up and do it,” Wilton said. “When all is said and done, I guess we’ll have to bury the hatchet.”

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Cindy H Wilton
Cindy H Wilton
11 years ago

Well written. I have known Rodney Poole for 19 years, as long as I’ve known my husband. They were the best of friends. We socialized and vacationed together, Rodney was included in every group event. We trusted and thought highly of him. Rodney was the only non-family member at our small wedding ceremony and the godfather of our 13 year old daughter. When the opportunity to buy Wilton Companies came up, Hank brought in Rodney and Rich Johnson as partners. Rodney had been doing real estate closings for Hank for years and was a well respected adoption attorney. Hank thought… Read more »

michael flanigan
michael flanigan
11 years ago

Liabilities totaled 93.2 MILLION- NINETY THREE MILLION TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND IS A HECK OF ALOT OF MONEY TO OWE………….lucky they did not take your homes, trust accounts, etc, etc, etc

John Richmond
John Richmond
11 years ago

I am a native Richmonder and have been around along time… I get how the real estate downturn wiped out the old money and people who were used to living a bit higher on the hog than they should… but by the same token, I also know that Rich Johnson and Rodney Poole are pretty much thought to be weasels by more than one person in this town…
What goes around comes around…

Glenn Hinton
Glenn Hinton
11 years ago

Obviously this a very sad situation for all parties involved. A situation as complex as this one must be, can’t be adequately and objectively reported in a short article like this one, particularly when only Mr. Wilton commented. That said, I take strong exception to Mr. Richmond’s “weasel” comment about Rich Johnson. I’ve been friends with Rich and our families have been close for over 30 years. I value his friendship based on his personal generosity, selflessness and loyalty more than this space allows me to describe. I’ve been a business partner with him also and he was always more… Read more »

Nancy Local
Nancy Local
11 years ago

Sorry, but Mr. Wilton had membership in 10 country clubs and about 5 or 6 vacation residences when he filed personal bankruptcy so the sympathy card for him just doesn’t cut it. Living high on the hog and leaving business partners in the lurch is more like a weasel, in my opinion.

Tom
Tom
11 years ago

Weasel not stong enough. Try doing deal with these guys and getting paid. Don’t worry what goes around comes around. Onsce wilton is dismantaled Hunt, Rich and Rodney will be working the streets

T&J
T&J
11 years ago

Cindy and Hank, we are sorry to hear of the troubles you are facing. You truly know your friends once you need their help and support. Richard was there when times were good. Where is he now?…Try to stay positive, things will get better! We are thinking of you! T&J

Kim Savage
Kim Savage
11 years ago

My heart is ripped in pieces after reading this. I am praying whole heartedly for all…I hope that reconciliation will find its way into this situation. I want others to know something about Hank and Cindy. Over the years they have been the most caring, generous people I know. When I was raising my son as a single mom – Hank and Cindy gave me money at one of the lowest times in my life. I did not ask for money…they just showed up with an envelope of cash. For years they bought Christmas and Easter presents for the children… Read more »