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Judge upholds Ritz verdict

Judge upholds $44.2 million judgment, one of the largest jury-imposed damage awards in local history.

SARASOTA — Ritz-Carlton Sarasota co-owner C. Robert Buford sat ramrod straight and Midwestern proper through eight hours of mostly reconstituted testimony in January, hoping a Sarasota County judge would slash one of the largest jury-imposed damage awards in local history.

Instead, Judge Becky Titus this week largely upheld a $44.2 million judgment against Buford, his brother, Dan, and home builder Taylor Woodrow Inc. for cutting partner Kevin Daves and Horizon Mortgage Corp. owner N.J. Olivieri out of plans and fees tied to condos near the swanky hotel’s private Lido Key beach club.

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OVER QUAY RESOLVED

A lawsuit over the former Sarasota Quay property has been settled in mid-trial, paving the way for the sale and eventual development of a bayfront tract that is among the most desirable urban parcels in Florida.

Under an agreement reached late Thursday afternoon, Irish Bank Resolution Corp. will be able to formalize a foreclosure against the land’s Dublin-based owners on the 15-acre tract, which has lain vacant for six years.

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20 MILLION TO CULVERHOUSE

A pair of Southwest Florida’s most prominent developers used backroom political deals with elected officials and conspired in secret meetings to doublecross their one-time partner on a major land deal, a Sarasota jury concluded on Monday.

The six-member jury agreed with Palmer Ranch developer Hugh Culverhouse Jr. that fellow developers Randy Benderson and Henry Rodriguez intentionally sabotaged a 2010 land deal in which the three were to turn 1,000 acres in central Sarasota County into a major economic hub.

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The uneasy EEZ

Back in 2010, “EEZ” was supposed to stand for Energy Economic Zone — an idea that would blaze a path toward smart growth, sustainability and jobs for Sarasota County. But by the time three big developers finished fighting over the project, it looked more like an Ego Enlargement Zone.

So much for idealism. Indeed, that word seems out of place in connection with what appears to have been little more than a profit-making competition by three politically influential parties who could not stand the idea that one of them would benefit more than the others.

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