Attorneys for West Virginia governor’s family want to block planned land auction to repay loans

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Attorneys for the family of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice are seeking to block a Virginia bank from plans to auction off land at the governor’s posh resort to recover more than $300 million on defaulted business loans.

A complaint seeking an injunction was filed Wednesday on behalf of the Greenbrier Sporting Club in White Sulphur Springs. The filing in Greenbrier County Circuit Court said the auction would jeopardize thousands of jobs and “severely damage” both the club and the Greenbrier Resort, which has hosted U.S. presidents and royalty and is the county’s largest employer.

The complaint asks the court to halt the planned auction until it addresses claims by the Justice family against Carter Bank & Trust of Martinsville, Virginia. It seeks a jury trial. A federal lawsuit filed by the Justice companies against the bank in November is pending.

On at least four occasions between 2021 and 2023, the Justice companies tried to steer their banking business from Carter Bank to other lenders, who were prepared to pay off all or part of their Carter Bank loans. But Carter Bank “blocked or sabotaged” the transfer efforts, the complaint in state court said.

Carter Bank has said it would “aggressively” pursue $302 million it was owed in principal debt, plus interest and fees, from companies owned by the governor’s family.

“Banks have an obligation to their shareholders and the financial system to collect in full all amounts that are due and owing to them,” the bank said in a filing last month with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “Carter Bank is no different from any other bank in this regard.”

A message left with the bank seeking comment on the latest court filing wasn’t immediately returned Thursday.

Carter Bank published a legal notice in the Charleston Gazette-Mail on Tuesday announcing a March 5 auction involving land at the Greenbrier Sporting Club would be held outside the Greenbrier County Courthouse in Lewisburg.

The sporting club is a private equity club and residential community that opened in 2000. Justice bought the resort out of bankruptcy in 2009. The PGA Tour held a tournament at the resort from 2010 until 2019.

During a media availability Wednesday, Justice called Carter Bank “beyond belief terrible. And we’re not going to put up with it anymore. We’re going to push back.”

Justice, who owns dozens of companies, also has been the subject of numerous court claims that he has been late in paying millions of dollars he owes in fines, such as for unsafe working conditions at his coal mines.

Justice, a Republican, is finishing his second term as governor this year and is running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Joe Manchin. Manchin has said he is not seeking reelection.

Last year dozens of properties owned by Justice in three counties were put up for auction as payment for delinquent real estate taxes.

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