Media General acquirer wants local brokerage’s lawsuit tossed

Nexstar sold the building in June to Richmond-based Hourigan Development. (BizSense file photo)

A media giant denies owing a Richmond commercial real estate firm a commission on the $13 million sale of the former Media General headquarters building on East Franklin Street.

Nexstar Media Group, which purchased Media General earlier this year, filed a response this month to the suit from Harrison & Bates, a Richmond CRE firm doing business as Colliers International, which alleged it is owed $325,000 for work related to the sale of the property at 333 E. Franklin St.

In its response, filed Oct. 3 in U.S. District Court, Nexstar argues that no written contract existed between the company and Colliers in relation to the building, which was sold in June to Richmond-based Hourigan Development for $13 million.

While Colliers served as Media General’s listing agent for another building previously sold at 111 Fourth St., the response states that neither Nexstar nor Media General was involved in what it calls a “convoluted deal” between Colliers and fellow commercial real estate firm CBRE to secure Hourigan as a buyer with the understanding that it would then lease the headquarters building to the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission.

Colliers’ lawsuit claimed CBRE was or will be paid a commission for representing VWCC in its 10-year lease of part of the building from Hourigan. Colliers said it served as a “de facto marketing advisor and agent” for Media General with the understanding that it would be paid a commission if the building was sold – in this case, $325,000, or 2.5 percent of the gross sales price.

Colliers’ suit, which alleged eight counts against Nexstar including fraud, unjust enrichment and part performance, sought payment of that amount and a jury trial. The lawsuit was filed Aug. 24 in Richmond Circuit Court but was moved late last month to federal court at Nexstar’s request.

In its response, Nexstar contends the court should dismiss the suit with prejudice, taking issue with the “glaring absence” in the suit of a description of Colliers as a listing agent for Media General in relation to the headquarters building, whereas the suit identifies Colliers as such in regard to 111 Fourth St.

The suit, Nexstar contends, “conflates what seem to be four separate transactions in an attempt to state a claim,” referring as well to a proposed lease for the headquarters building that didn’t close, Colliers’ deal with CBRE, and Hourigan’s purchase of the building.

Nexstar argues that the lack of a listing agreement, along with the suit’s absence of “simple facts” about the transaction, “the larding of the complaint with irrelevant” allegations, and “the convoluted deal” with CBRE and Hourigan “all suggest that this was some kind of deal among the latter parties that went awry, which plaintiff is trying to make good in this suit by wrongfully targeting Nexstar.”

“Most notable,” the response adds, “is the failure to plead a breach of contract in what seems to be a simple breach of contract case.”

The response was filed by Robert Hodges and Matthew Fender of McGuireWoods, which is representing Nexstar. A message left Thursday for Hodges was not returned.

Colliers is represented by Andrew Mauck of downtown law firm Mauck & Brooke. He did not return a call seeking comment.

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