It's a small world for Doug Manchester, the former Union-Tribune owner who made a failed bid to replace San Diego's ex-Qualcomm Stadium meant to lure an NFL replacement for the Chargers back in February 2017 after the team left town for fancier digs in Inglewood.
Now the Republican kingpin and developer of downtown's long-stalled Navy Broadway complex has sued AECOM Inc. – the multi-national project management and engineering services company in charge of building his trouble-beset convention hotel in Austin, Texas.
The November complaint alleges that AECOM neglected its work on Manchester's glitzy Fairmont Austin hotel in favor of Stan Kroenke's $5 billion Hollywood Park makeover in Inglewood, featuring a 70,000-seat stadium for the Los Angeles Rams, to be shared with their tenants, the rechristened L.A. Chargers.
Manchester's suit charges that the Fairmont Austin “became the proverbial ‘red-headed stepchild’," when AECOM relocated the project's construction manager to L.A., per a December 12 report by the Austin Business Journal.
Supposed to be completed by June of 2017 at a cost of $237 million, the project dragged on into early this year, ballooning the hotel's reputed ultimate price to $370 million, and remains incomplete, the complaint says. "It was no secret the hotel wasn’t completely finished when it opened in March 2018, just days ahead of the annual South by Southwest festival," the paper notes.
"But Manchester Financial alleges in court documents that the hotel was only 60 percent complete when it opened to the public — and that some of it is still unfinished to this day, with AECOM essentially out of the picture. The lawsuit claims a date of "substantial completion" has yet to be issued, and that no such date has been set by the project architect. Rather, the hotel continues to operate with a temporary certificate of occupancy, the lawsuit alleges."
In a futile effort to speed up construction Manchester allegedly fronted extra cash for subcontractors, but even so, the repeatedly postponed early 2018 completion date was missed, and "reservations for about 400 rooms booked for SXSW had to be canceled," per the account
"Lost bookings from August 2017 to today, as well as cancellation penalties and other damages, exceeds $75 million at the Fairmont," Manchester's lawsuit alleges, according to the item. "Court records indicate it's seeking at least $50 million from AECOM, but the lawsuit also states that the company could seek more money at trial."
The debacle followed years of pre-construction postponements while Manchester and his son Douglas W. Manchester struggled to line up financing for the project, including an unfruitful dalliance with would-be Chinese investors.
The San Diego Republican ultimately tapped Santa Monica financier and fellow Donald Trump supporter Tom Barrack, a key conduit for Middle Eastern investor money, to come up with $295 million in 2015, according to Travis County records.
Barrack, a University of San Diego law school alumnus who ran Trump's 2017 inaugural festivities, is currently at the center of a federal investigation relating to foreign fundraising and spending. Manchester contributed $1 million for the event. Financing for Manchester's Navy Broadway project, where excavation began this past summer, has yet to be disclosed.