Dispute between former real estate partners in downtown Chattanooga ends quietly

Dispute between former real estate partners in downtown Chattanooga ends quietly

February 4th, 2014 by Ellis Smith in Business Around the Region

Darlene Brown, managing broker and co-owner of Museum Bluffs Parkview, right, and marketing director Adelia Mosley stand outside of eight "Live-work Townhomes on the Park."

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Real Estate Partners has settled a lawsuit in which former partner Gina Sakich alleged that secret company retreats, backroom dealings and accounting misappropriations by the firm's other partners were part of a plot to prevent her from selling her share in the business.

Real Estate Partners is one of Chattanooga's biggest real estate brokerage firms, and represents hundreds of prestigious addresses. But over Thanksgiving, the three-way partnership became embroiled in a very public breakup in which Sakich accused partners Darlene Brown and Adelia Mosley in court of attempts to devalue the company and cut Sakich out of the decision-making process.

The secret efforts were retaliation for her request to sell her share of the company, Sakich alleged in court documents, and were done as a sort of "poison pill" to deprive her of what she was owed, while funneling company resources to Mosley and Brown.

Sakich and Brown were each 45 percent owners, while Mosley owned the remaining 10 percent. By working together, Brown and Mosley controlled a 55 percent voting interest and could effectively overrule Sakich.

The dispute began when Belinda Winslett offered $150,000 for Sakich's share of the company -- which would value the firm at $800,000. Sakich was prohibited by the company covenants from accepting the offer until she had first brought the same offer to the company's existing partners. When she did so, the complaint alleges that a series of special meetings were called that would change the company from a partnership to a company managed by a single partner -- Brown.

Brown is married to Chattanooga developer Eugene "Buck" Schimpf, who has worked to build a signature hotel and condo development on the city's riverfront. Real Estate Partners counts 43 agents on its payroll, according to its website, and has developed a reputation as a go-to firm for big projects.

An attorney for Brown and Mosley called the allegations "scurrilous," and pointed out that an arbitration provision in the company's covenants requires partners to negotiate privately before any court action, a provision that was apparently successful in resolving the dispute.

Sakich will leave the company with the resources to found her own company in Ooltewah that will "serve the entire Chattanooga region," according to spokeswoman Robin Derryberry. Sakich's focus will include new residential communities on the Southside, a riverfront community and two in the Ooltewah/Collegedale area.

"I've been blessed to have wonderful clients and equally wonderful colleagues who've been tremendously supportive," Sakich said. "My goal is to continue to serve the area while offering expanded service in and around the Ooltewah area. I couldn't be more excited to share news about our new firm in the coming days."

Brown will continue as sole managing partner of Real Estate Partners.

Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at esmith@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6315.