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Hampton Island investors fighting

Posh subdivision in Liberty County

POSTED: October 26, 2007 5:00 a.m.
Courier file photo/

As it was being built developers said they wanted to leave the land as natural as possible.

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ATLANTA -- Some of Georgia's most powerful investors are butting heads over who controls ritzy Hampton Island, an exclusive coastal resort that's home to two mansions owned by actor Ben Affleck.

Two groups vying for control over the property — Liberty Capital and Hampton Island Founders — made their claims Tuesday before the Georgia Supreme Court.

Lawyers representing the warring factions say some $30 million is tied up in the deal, which involves developers Wayne Mason and John Williams. It's also attracted some of the state's most notable attorneys. Former Gov. Roy Barnes is among a dozen attorneys taking sides against Founders.

Hampton Island — actually a collection of islands near Riceboro, covering about 4,000 acres — was purchased in 2002 by a group of investors known as the Founders headed by Atlanta developer Wade Shealy, who said he wanted to preserve the coastal property's rugged character while marketing it to upscale buyers.

One of the first buyers to sign up was Affleck, who helped Hampton Island make national news in 2003 when he was seen nearby with then-fiance Jennifer Lopez. Locals speculated the pair was planning an island wedding.

But after the Founders entered into a joint venture with another group of well-heeled investors called Liberty Capital, a dispute soon arose over who had management control over the property.

The Founders filed a lawsuit in December asking a judge to declare that Liberty failed to live up to its end of the bargain, and asked for an injunction to ban the other investors from seizing control of Hampton Island. Liberty Capital soon countersued.

In January, a judge ruled that the Founders and Shealy no longer managed Hampton Island, but that the new joint company did. Lawyers representing two of Founders' members then moved to intervene in the case, arguing that Founders should not interfere with their meetings.

A Cobb County judge agreed, but the Supreme Court issued a last-minute stay, landing the case in the Supreme Court Tuesday.

During the arguments, Founders attorney Steven Hall asked the justices to reverse the trial judge's order, saying it "was a profound abuse of discretion."

But Carlton Kell, representing shareholders who invested $7.5 million in the island, asked the court to dismiss the argument so the judge can return to the crux of the case.

"There is an urgency for this case to be heard. There's a lot of money involved," he said. "But because of all the procedural morass that's been created, the trial judge has been unable to hear it."


Georgia Supreme Court:

Hampton Island:

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