Federal court judge dismisses real estate dispute between Athena and Montana couple

With ownership changes at athenahealth, what happens to Point Lookout?

Mon, 11/26/2018 - 12:15pm

NORTHPORT — On Nov. 8, a federal district court judge dismissed a a Montana couple’s request to legally bind a real estate agreement of the athenahealth-owned Point Lookout Resort and Conference Center in Northport to them. And just days later, on Nov. 12, Athenahealth itself, the Massachusetts-based medical records company with a call center in Belfast, announced that it was being acquired in a $5.7 billion cash deal.

The unrelated, yet significant developments to the Midcoast, leaves the question of what happens next with the 387-acre Point Lookout.

The property, which occupies the southeastern side and top of Ducktrap Mountain, which overlooks Penobscot Bay, has changed hands multiple times over the last two decades, as different corporate owners come and go.

Athenahealth has been the latest owner, and has used the property, with its gym and bowling alley, cabins, its artificial turf playing field, and two event centers, for public and private purposes, including weddings and conferences. Last winter, however, the publicly-traded athenahealth, operating through its Athena Point Lookout, LLC (APL), put the property on the market. 

Athenahealth had acquired Point Lookout from the Maryland-based Erickson Foundation, which had, in turn, acquired its Maine real estate from Bank of America, which had acquired its Maine properties from MBNA, the credit card bank that originally developed the mountainside land as a corporate retreat, beginning in 1997.

In January 2018, David J. and Tami L. Hirschfeld, of Choteau, Montana, made an offer on the property and talks continued into early April, when they “tendered their ‘final offer’ of $6,500,000 for the property,” according to the Nov. 8 judge’s decision.

One day later, another offer arrived from an unnamed party, and there was competition for the resort and conference center. Ultimately, Athena Point Lookout, LLC (APL) entered into negotiations with that other party.

That resulted in a dispute between the Hirschfelds and Athena, and in April, the Hirschfelds filed a complaint against Athena Point Lookout LLC. They said APL violated Maine law on six counts, including breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation.

According to court documents, the day after the Hirschfelds had placed their $6.5 million offer, APL responded that it had another offer that it would be accepting.

The Hirschfelds then raised their offer to $7 million, and APL responded with a letter of intent to the Hirschfelds to have a deal at $7 million. But the agreement, according to the judge’s Nov. 8 decision, stipulated that the proposal was nonbinding and that there were multiple offers under consideration.

Complicating the situation, the Hirschfelds had, according to court documents, reduced the price of land they had listed for sale in Montana, the goal being to raise money for the Point Lookout purchase.

Three hours after APL said it was preparing a purchase and sales agreement with the Hirschfelds, APL said it had entered a contract to sell the property to another party that had offered more money.

Two weeks later, the Hirschfelds filed in court, a case that was then moved to federal court on May 18.

While the Hirschfelds said APL violated state law on six counts, including breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation, U.S. District Court Judge Singal decided in November that “the facts as pled are insufficient to state any of these claims.”

Singal said the language of the LOI was unambiguous and plain, and that the alleged promises of APL after signing that they had a deal were “insufficient to state a claim for either equitable or promissory estoppel.”

On Nov. 8, the judge dismissed their case. While the Hirschfelds said Nov. 19 that they were disappointed in the decision, they were looking at their options, according to their attorney, Dana Strout, of Rockport.

Meanwhile, Athenahealth itself is in the process of being acquired by two companies, Veritas Capital and Evergreen Coast Capital.

What that means for Point Lookout remains to be seen. Athena spokesman John Fox said Nov. 20, “We won't be commenting at this time.”

 

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Athena Point Lookout files notice of removal in response to Montana couple’s lawsuit


Reach Editorial Director Lynda Clancy at lyndaclancy@penbaypilot.com; 207-706-6657