Pittman family dispute escalates with new lawsuit

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An ongoing family dispute could cause some of the companies related to a retail real estate development in Carmel to be dissolved.

Mark Pittman, son of late heart surgeon and developer John N. Pittman, filed a lawsuit Oct. 14 in Hamilton County against his siblings and family-owned entities involved with The Bridges, alleging that his brothers have wrongly tried to take control of the companies for their own financial self-interest. The suit wants the companies to be dissolved.

The lawsuit names Steve, Chad and Scott Pittman, Anne Kelton, Pittman Management LLC, JEC Partnership LP, JEC Bridges I LLC and JEC Bridges II LLC as defendants, but says that Kelton is a defendant “in name only” and has not been involved with any of the alleged misconduct.

“Anne is a single mother of four children who resides in Oregon and lacks the financial resources and experience to engage in costly litigation against Steve, Chad or Scott despite their oppressive and malicious conduct,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit is the latest development in the ongoing battle among the Pittman family in the wake of the December 2014 death of their father. Mark, Chad, Steve, Scott and Anne have been fighting in court since September 2015 over how to handle the estimated $2.4 million estate that they are to equally inherit. Chad is a resident of Boone County, and Steve and Scott live in Hamilton County.

The companies named in the complaint own The Bridges, which is a development that includes a Market District grocery store, CVS Pharmacy and multiple fast-food restaurants and retail tenants, on 116th Street between Spring Mill Road and Illinois Street in Carmel. The Pittman family developed The Bridges, which still has two open parcels, with Gershman Partners.

Mark Pittman, an attorney living in California, is seeking declaratory judgement, injunctive relief, dissolution of the named companies and prevention of his brothers from acting on behalf of the companies other than to “wind up the business.”

John Pittman had 100 percent ownership in the companies. He established Pittman Management LLC in 2011, and was the sole partner of JEC Partnership LP, which he formed in 1991.

JEC Partnership LP is the only member of JEC Bridges I LLC and JEC Bridges II LLC.

Mark Pittman argues in the complaint that once his father died, the companies no longer had any members and, according to Indiana code, would be dissolved if no efforts were taken within 90 days following his death to assign a new member. No new member was assigned during that time frame, according to the lawsuit.

“Due to the dissolution of the companies, the managers, members and partners have no authority to conduct business on behalf of the companies except those activities necessary to wind up and dissolve the companies,” the complaint states.

Mark Pittman accuses Steve Pittman of running up $300,000 in debt with Pittman Investors LLC, which owns the Zionsville property where the $90 million mixed-use development known as The Farm is expected to be developed.

According to the complaint, Steve Pittman tried to borrow funds from JEC Partnership LP to pay the debt owed by Pittman Investors.

“… Despite the admonishment from outside legal counsel on multiple occasions that such conduct was not permissible, Steve, Scott and Chad have persisted in their efforts to borrow against the assets of JEC Partnership LP and use the proceeds in a prohibited manner to benefit themselves,” the complaint states.

Mark Pittman alleges that Steve, Scott and Chad withheld funds from another family business—Pittman Development Corp.—as a way to leverage himself and Kelton to negotiate.

The lawsuit also says that Chad, Steve and Scott had “secret meetings” with brokers to discuss selling more than $40 million in real estate, but it does not specify which real estate that would include.

The brothers are accused of a breach of fiduciary duties for not acting in the best interest of the companies and causing harm to Mark Pittman and Kelton.

“The conduct by Steve, Chad and Scott constitutes malicious, oppressive, premeditated, willful and wanton tortious behavior and has been in reckless disregard of the rights of Mark and Anne," the lawsuit states. 

In a written statement sent to IBJ, Steve Pittman argued that Mark Pittman "has behaved in an unstable and volatile manner in the two years since my dad’s death."

"On numerous occasions he has made criminal accusations against family members," Steve Pittman wrote.  

The lawsuit also claims that Steve, Chad and Scott attempted to find information that could be used as blackmail against Mark Pittman by placing a GPS tracker on his vehicle in an effort to secretly record his business and personal phone calls.

The suit alleges that one of Scott Pittman’s sons, who serves in the military, was used by the brothers to “conduct ‘black ops’ research” on his uncle, Mark Pittman.

The son allegedly contacted Mark Pittman and said “he was shocked and appalled by the conduct of his father and uncles.”

According to the suit, the brothers retaliated against the son by allegedly threatening to launch a criminal military investigation against the son for alleged war crimes he committed while serving in Iraq. The son denies any such crime.

None of the defendants have filed a response to the lawsuit yet.

"In the last two years, we have learned that when Mark left Indiana over 35 years ago, he harbored deep-seated resentment towards the families that remained in Indiana and were close with my mom and dad," Steve Pittman said in a prepared statement. "His anger toward my dad and the rest of us has manifested itself in ways that are unthinkable. That being said, the three Indiana families continue to look forward to some sort of resolution that is fair for all."

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