The estate of Lehman Brothers is battling Bank of America and Barclays in court over their pending sale of a big stake in Archstone, the large multifamily housing landlord that real estate mogul Sam Zell's Equity Residential is seeking to buy.
The dispute centers on the banks' agreement to sell half of their 53 percent stake of Archstone to Zell for $1.33 billion. Lehman sued the banks on Dec. 15 for breach of contract, arguing they were effectively denied first-refusal rights in the proposed sale to Zell, whose Equity Residential is a major competitor of Archstone in rental housing.
Lehman wants to match Zell's bid for 26.5 percent stake is seeking an injunction on the deal to make a right-of-first-refusal bid and close on the purchase by Jan. 23.
In addition, Lehman opposes the banks' demand for more than $1.3 billion to buy the second 26.5 percent of Archstone. A lawyer for Bank of America said that it had the contractual right to seek the highest price.
The estimated price the banks want for the second half of their Archstone stake is estimated at $1.445 billion, said Jeffrey Fitts, co-head of real estate at Lehman, on the witness stand, according to Dow Jones Newswire.
Lehman and Tishman Speyer, landlord of Rockefeller Center and the Chrysler Building, bought Archstone prior to the recession for $22 billion, turning the former publicly traded real estate investment trust into a private company. Tishman has since exited the investment, and Lehman now holds a 47 percent stake in Archstone, which controls over 70,000 apartment units in the U.S.
With rents rising and vacancies tightening, Archstone is once again seen as a valuable investment, sparking Zell's desire for the company. A 26.5 percent minority stake would give him a path toward 100 percent ownership.
Meanwhile, the banks are seeking to sell their stake in the investment as soon as possible, while Lehman has proposed taking the company public once again, which could increase funds to pay back investors in Lehman.
Closing arguments for Lehman, Bank of America and Barclays were being made Friday.