Donation Tucked Inside Winrock Grass Farm Sale Now in Dispute

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Aug. 12, 2013 12:00 am  

Winrock Grass Farm (Photo by Michael Pirnique)

The deal closed without controversy nearly four years ago, but a dispute recently arose.

Back in December 2009, Canterbury Park Ltd. sold 915 acres along the Big Maumelle River to the Trust for Public Land of San Francisco for $12.4 million, which works out to be about $13,500 per acre for what was the Winrock Grass Farm.

Canterbury claims it didn’t notice that tucked in the seller’s statement was a line item for $500,000.

That money was a “charitable donation” Canterbury unknowingly made to the Trust, according to a lawsuit filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court.

“That ‘charitable donation’ was actually an illegal real estate commission,” Canterbury’s complaint said.

Canterbury said it wants the $500,000 back plus interest.

The Trust denied Canterbury’s allegations in court filings. The Trust also said that the complaint fell beyond the statute of limitations and asked that the lawsuit be tossed out.

The attorney representing Canterbury, Tré Kitchens of Little Rock, declined to comment on why it took Canterbury years to file the lawsuit.

A spokesperson for the Trust declined to comment on the case becuase of the pending litigation.

Land’s History

If you recall, the land once belonged to Little Rock businessman Frank B. Whitbeck, 66, who is expected to be released from federal prison on Feb. 20 after serving a six-year sentence for mail fraud.

Whitbeck had lost the land through foreclosure. In 2005, Canterbury, an investment group led by Jay DeHaven, bought about 815 acres of Whitbeck’s property for only $4.55 million at a foreclosure sale. Later in 2005, DeHaven’s group bought more land at the site for $1.3 million

Central Arkansas Water wanted to control the property because of its connection to the Lake Maumelle watershed.

So, in stepped the Trust for Public Land, which bought the land at the request of CAW and will hold it until the utility can raise the cash to pay for it.



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