RendezVous LeBreton partners want to salvage deal

One of the parties in the legal battle over the redevelopment of LeBreton Flats says companies run by Eugene Melnyk and John Ruddy are again turning to mediation, just more than two weeks before their deal officially dies.

Graham Bird says key players are going into mediation

Trinity chairperson John Ruddy, left, and Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, right, are two of the main players in the LeBreton Flats development and lawsuit. (The Canadian Press/CBC)

With just two weeks left before their deal with the National Capital Commission officially dies, the two feuding sides in the LeBreton Flats redevelopment will turn to mediation to try one last time to settle their differences.

Eugene Melnyk and John Ruddy have been locked in a legal battle since November, when Melnyk's Capital Sports Management Inc. sued Ruddy's Trinity Development Group and project manager Graham Bird for $700 million.

Ruddy answered with a billion-dollar counterclaim, alleging Melnyk was trying to avoid paying for the arena because he couldn't afford it.

Bird, whose consulting firm GBA Development and Project Management has been involved in the RendezVous LeBreton partnership since the beginning, said Friday that the deal is "too important to fail, and is worth salvaging."

Let's stop, take a deep breath, find the middle ground and get on with it.- Graham Bird

A GBA spokesperson said the three sides have scheduled "imminent" mediation before Jan. 19, when the National Capital Commission officially ends the deal.

A leading mediator, former Ontario chief justice Warren Winkler, has been asked to oversee the talks, which would include Bird, Melnyk and Ruddy and their lawyers, the spokesperson said.

Bird optimistic

Mediation is often a part of a civil litigation but doesn't always take place quickly, Bird said.

No one wants to spend years in court "yelling at each other," so it made sense to try to arrange the session at a time when the LeBreton partnership might still be rescued, Bird said.

The way Bird sees it, emotions ran high before the holidays but he's optimistic the parties can still see the "brilliance" of their proposal and the thousands of hours of work that have gone into trying to build five distinct neighbourhoods and a new arena for the Ottawa Senators.

"Let's stop, take a deep breath, find the middle ground and get on with it," said Bird.

Neither Capital Sports Management Inc. nor Trinity Development Group would comment.

It won't be the first time the parties have taken part in mediation — various legal documents filed in recent weeks describe how a session among the Rendezvous LeBreton partners failed in July 2016.

And while some consider the partnership as good as dead, an NCC spokesperson said last month the organization could reconsider ending the deal if it's presented with compelling evidence the partners have resolved their differences.

Statement of defence filed

Bird also filed his statement of defence to Melnyk's lawsuit in court on Friday, and called for the case to be thrown out.

The majority of that lawsuit revolves around Ruddy and Trinity, and the claim that Trinity's three-tower project at the nearby Bayview Station would be in direct competition with the real estate to be developed at LeBreton.

As for Bird, Capital Sports claimed he acted as an agent for Trinity to increase density at those towers, and took part in meetings with city staff without notifying Capital Sports.

"It was that underlying fear that we were somehow playing games with [Capital Sports Management] and I think we were quite frankly offended by that," said Bird.

"We've been extremely true to the dream, to the vision, and the implementation of that from the get-go."

Bird refuted all the allegations against him, saying nothing about the proposal has substantially changed and his firm has never been involved in the design or financing of Trinity's towers at 900 Albert St.

None of the claims in the original lawsuit, counterclaim or Bird's statement of defence has been proven in court.

Mediation scheduled to salvage LeBreton Flats deal

4 years ago
Duration 0:29
Graham Bird, whose consulting firm GBA Development and Project Management has been involved in the RendezVous LeBreton partnership, will attend last-ditch talks to salvage the deal before the NCC terminates it.