Reversal of fortune: Halsey Minor declares personal bankruptcy

It's official. Halsey Minor has burned up his fortune, once estimated at nearly $400 million.

A spate of vanity investments and the litigation that followed appear to have pushed the high-flying technology entrepreneur into bankruptcy court. The Charlottesville native, once considered an icon of entrepreneurism, threw in his proverbial towel Friday, May 31, when he voluntarily filed for Chapter 7 protection from his creditors. In his May 24 filing in a federal court in Los Angeles, Minor cites debts measuring in the $50 million to $100 million range while his assets fall below the $50 million mark. Minor himself now appears to concede what his critics have long claimed: that he stretched his finances past the point of insolvency by buying houses, racehorses, and artworks.

"A case might be made I should never have strayed from technology," Minor says in an electronic message to a reporter. "However, I like doing things outside my comfort zone, and I believe that willingness in part accounts for my tech successes."

His tech successes were legion. In the early 1990s, he co-founded one of the few internet companies to turn a profit and then survive the dot-com/dot-bomb era: CNET Networks, which CBS purchased four years ago for nearly $2 billion. Minor also played instrumental early roles in the companies that would become known as, Rhapsody, NBCi, and GoogleVoice.

In recent years, however, his investment mosaic began expanding to include multi-million-dollar art collections, and he picked up four dwellings priced at eight figures each. There was a 1960s modernist masterpiece in L.A., a neoclassical mansion in the tony Pacific Heights district of San Francisco, a former museum near Colonial Williamsburg, and a view-heavy horse farm right here in Western Albemarle.

His purchases seemed to draw legal indignities. Two auction houses sued him for failing to pay for artworks. San Francisco officials threatened to condemn the house modeled after Marie Antoinette's Petit Trianon. Even Fox Ridge, the hometown farm with the Blue Ridge mountain backdrop, fell into foreclosure proceedings. As his empire crumbled, California placed him atop its list of taxpayer deadbeats.

And yet the business dervish never lost his need for speed. Shortly before the national financial turmoil of 2008, Minor ordered a brand new $69 million Gulfstream private jet. (By contrast, when Donald Trump arrived to tout his buyout of another bankrupt businessperson, Patricia Kluge, the celebrity developer and presidential noise-maker arrived on a Sikorsky helicopter that was two decades old.)

In recent months, two of Minor's corporate bankruptcies have kept federal courts in Virginia busy. The one styled Minor Family Hotels LLC should wrap in early June with stiffed contractors sharing about half of the $6.25 million an Atlanta developer paid for the moribund Landmark hotel project on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall.

In Williamsburg, the historic riverfront estate known as Carter's Grove has likewise been wrested away from Minor amid allegations that he dodged depositions and failed to supply court-ordered information. While he claimed to be caring for a sick child, the court recently hit him with a contempt order. (The filings in the Williamsburg debacle also showed that despite losing more than a million-dollar deposit on a Gulfstream he never received, Minor would lease private planes instead of flying commercial.)

Minor didn't lose all his fights. He won a judgement in a California court that the modernist house contained hidden water damage; he won a pyrrhic victory from an arbitrator in the Landmark hotel dispute; and he convinced a jury that Christie's auction house overreached in its tactics to get him to pay for his artworks.

Yet the seemingly perpetual state of litigation took a toll. Of the 63 creditors listed in the initial bankruptcy filing, no fewer than 18 are law firms including DLA Piper. The firm, with operations across the globe, boldly petitioned a court in Charlottesville to bill $790 an hour when Minor already owed millions. Now, its $5 million-plus bill will likely never be paid, as Minor's personal bankruptcy filing predicts that "there will be no funds available to unsecured creditors."

Charlottesville-based legal analyst David Heilberg refers to Chapter 7 filings as "total liquidation." That means the property will be sold off, but any proceeds will go first to the mortage-holders, so little companies like Intrastate Pest Control, Tiger Fuel, and a Crozet-based horse-training center will likely never see a dime. Additional creditors include Minor's mother, wife, and ex-wife.

Minor now lives with his second wife and their five children in a rented house a block off Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. The 48-year-old has indicated that he's already thinking about a new project, and he sounds a philosophical note about his past. "The seeds of my every failure," he says, "can be found in my every success, and the seeds of my every success can be found in my every failure."

For Bill Shmidheiser, a Harrisonburg lawyer representing one of the soon-to-be-paid contractors on the Landmark hotel project, Minor's bankruptcy has him ruminating too.

"It's another one of those cases we see of somebody who had enough money to be set for life, and then it's gone," says Shmidheiser. "I don't think I'd blow it if I had the chance, but how do I know?"


The Trustee will be following a very long path of Minor's financial dealings. So will the IRS and California's Franchise Tax Board. It is only a matter of time before he is behind bars.

RE: "It is only a matter of time before he is behind bars."

Srsly ?

Greed and arrogance humbled. It's a good thing.

He may be bankrupt but I doubt he'll be poor after all this is over. I feel bad about the smaller debtors who will never see a dime; however his own sue happy lawyers getting stiffed gives me a fine sense of schadenfreude.

I assure you, we haven't seen the last of him.


Ouch! He needs to learn that wise investment choices are more important than justification from past successes. Otherwise, he will keep burning himself and others with unrealistic dreams. I hope he can turn it around, and repays the people & businesses he owes before profiting.

There is that word again-----HOPE------not likely

Anxious to write his epitaph? I can see why. He hurt a lot of others in his quest for self-gratification. He's a dreamer, not a visionary. He's not concerned with people he stiffed, only his next fantasy project. I hope investors will get some returns before it's all gone.

Shame on you Halsey. You have proved yourself to be nothing but a Charlatan......

The reason he is a worm is because he took risk with other peoples money without being upfront about those risks. If he wanted to bet the entire 400 million on roulette and live in a trailer until he made more then that is okay but he did not . He purchased things with borrowed money and too low a collateral and filled people with hype.

What goes around comes around and hopefully he will lose it all.

The best cville has to offer. What a world class city.

Minor's played out. He'll be living much more modestly in the future and hopefully he'll give up the BS and acquire the modesty to accept the straitened circumstances the future holds for him. He will have earned it....

Meanwhile the new owner of the landmark hotel hasn't done a thing to restart that project.

Bill Marshall says that Halsey Minor " took risk with other peoples money without being upfront about those risks."

No doubt true.

But Bill, what do you think the big Wall Street bankers and hedge-funders have been doing for years?

Perhaps they'll get their comeuppance –– and jail time –– one day too.

Democracy==== perhaps both of your points are off the mark a bit. This is about Halsey and not everything else. It wasn't a matter of OPM (other peoples money) it is about his total disdain for people who worked very hard on his behalf whom he didn't give a "hoot" about and his frivolous outlook and rather bi-polar vision. He took gambling with no real knowledge and mistook it as vision. Halsey then believed, as he obviously still believes, that he has a vision that is truly unique and knows better than anyone else. He is a Charlatan (a person falsely claiming to have a special knowledge or skill; a fraud.).

As far as the Landmark is concerned, in checking with the authorities in Charleston, I am afraid that Dewberry is quickly approaching the status of Halsey. Time will tell.


non-resident ta...

You are so correct except when the principle (Halsey in this case) has flagrantly and recklessly caused harm to so many people and had so little regard for human beings. Having dreams is one thing but extolling the hubris that he knew better is the makings of James Jones (Jonestown), Hitler, Charles Manson and many other misguided people.

Why are you so easily confused? The new owner was clear he would not do anything to the joint unitl 2014 when he has completed other projects.


He hasn't done squat on the hotel in Charleston. No money.

Not one sane developer would buy a building for a second hotel until he finished the first one and had a "track record". No lender in the this environment would lend money to such an enterprise. That has been done before with dismal results.

Paul Tudor Jones II may have some off shore accounts that are linked to Minor.

200,000 US citizens are being reviewed by the US govt re: their off shore accounts in Sweden. Let's take a look at them and their relationship to UVA, shall we?

The new owner of the landmark hotel has no intention at all of doing a thing with it. He bought it at a rock bottom price and he's sitting on it for now. It's a speculative investment in buying low and selling high, just like Trump's acquisition of the former Kluge Vineyard. Mark my words, folks....

It is rumored in the Atlanta area that Dewberry has stage 4 cancer. He has been underground for quite some time and his staff is protecting him. It would be helpful if he would cooperate and let someone finish the project. He overpaid for it and really has no idea what he can do with it. His comments to the press after the purchase were not of someone who had done their due diligence nor had he spoken in depth with the city or the contractors. It reminds me of someone else who went on a buying spree only to lose everything at the end (Halsey Minor?).

as my grandmother Pearl, born in 1899 who also survived the depression would say, don't spend more than you earn and save for a rainy day. She was heir to 3000 acres in PA with oil wells that she was swindled out of by her first cousin. She got a job with the Treasury Department and retired early, after working 39 years to care for her 3 grandchildren who all now own their own homes outright - the turtle always wins the race

Guess time will tell on the Dewberry, whici is not slated to open until fall this giving it the extra 6 months these places always take...spring 2014.

what a waste
how many go hungry because of his ignorance
a one trick pony

please just tear down the landmark
if you know construction it cant stay as is for long

It can stand for a long time...