The empty building was across the street from her restaurant, Rosario’s Café y Cantina, at South Alamo and St. Mary’s streets. Wong wanted to buy the building, end her lease at Rosario’s, and relocate the restaurant to a permanent home that she owned outright.
Yet time after time, Wong’s offers to buy the empty building were met with silence or resistance from the real estate broker listing the property, David Held, Wong testified Friday in a Travis County courtroom at a hearing that will ultimately decide the fate of the museum.
Probate Court Judge Guy Herman could rule on the case early next week.
Wong’s lawyers are challenging a move to sell the property to a buyer who submitted an offer that was $90,000 lower than Wong’s $1.69 million bid.
One factor that makes the case unusual for a real estate dispute is that the state of Texas temporarily owns the museum.
The Texas attorney general’s office seized the property in December 2011, alleging the nonprofit owners were squandering charitable donations.
The nonprofit was shut down and Herman appointed Austin lawyer Karl Johnson to sell the museum. The net proceeds of the property and other assets will go to about a half-dozen families of fallen DPS troopers and a charitable cause that benefits troopers.
Given those facts, Wong said Johnson should accept the highest offer for the museum. But she testified Friday that she didn’t receive the same treatment Held gave a competing buyer, a firm tied to the father-and-son team of Paul and Kevin Covey.
In a Nov. 1 email from Held to Kevin Covey, which was made public as part of Wong’s court motion in the case, Held called the Coveys’ offer of $1.6 million to buy the property “excellent.”
“I will do all I can,” Held wrote. “I like your offer.”
In contrast, Wong said Held didn’t show any enthusiasm for her Nov. 5 offer.
“We got nothing of the sort,” she said.
Held and Johnson had testified they were cautious about Wong’s offer because it included provisions that would have allowed her to tie up the property for up to 90 days during the contract process. The Coveys’ option period was only 30 days.
After Wong complained about the process, lawyers for the attorney general’s office interviewed some of the key players in the transaction. Deputy Attorney General John Scott told Herman on Friday that he believed the sale should not move forward, but did not offer specific reasons why.
Wong’s lawyer, Gerald Drought, said Held would have been the only real estate broker involved in the sale if the property was sold to the Coveys, so his commission would have been higher — about $22,000 more than a deal with Wong, Drought pointed out.
Drought also noted that on two occasions, Johnson had to remind Held to notify all the interested buyers, including Wong, that the property was on the market.
Wong had made two offers for the property. In the second one, made Nov. 5, she bumped up the purchase price to $1.69 million, which was the highest offer of all the potential buyers. Yet Held didn’t forward a copy of the offer to Johnson.
Held said he and Johnson had talked about Wong’s second offer over the phone and they both were concerned by the 90-day possible extension. They viewed that as a deal killer.
January 26, 2013
San Antonio Express-News