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Cousin sues Indy hotel developer over Crowne Plaza airport hotel entity

December 18, 2018

The death of prominent Indianapolis hotel developer James E. Dora Sr. in 2016 has set off a dispute between his son and nephew.

John V. Dora, 66, of Brown County has filed a civil lawsuit in Marion Superior Court against his cousin Jim Dora, 54, president of Indianapolis-based hotel developer General Hotels Corp. The suit accuses Jim of self-dealing and violating his fiduciary responsibilities in another limited partnership in which both John and Jim were involved.

Jim, who is referred to as James Jr. throughout the suit, is James E. Dora Sr.’s son.

The lawsuit centers on Jim’s alleged actions shortly before and after his father’s death in June 2016, with an entity, Airport Inn Developers, that owned and operated the Crowne Plaza Hotel near the Indianapolis Airport.

Previously, James Sr. was the general partner of the entity. Currently, Jim controls a 75 percent interest in the partnership; John controls a 12.5 percent share and Rebecca Dora Culbertson, who is also named as a defendant, controls another 12.5 percent.

The suit accuses Jim of personally profiting from the partnership to the detriment of John, by failing to dissolve the partnership after his father died and contracting with his company, Indianapolis-based General Hotels Corp., to conduct daily management operations of the partnership business.

“James Jr. has treated partnership assets as his own personal assets to the detriment of the partnership and John,” according to the suit, which also accuses Jim of entering into loan transactions that personally benefitted him and his companies.

The suit accuses Jim of amending the partnership deal in such a way, shortly before his father’s death, that “would result in him taking over control from James E. Dora Sr”—and concealing knowledge from John that James Sr. was suffering from terminal cancer.

“James Jr.’s concealment of James Sr.’s illness constituted a misrepresentation of a material fact with the intent to deceive John and induce him to execute” the amendment, according to the suit.

The suit also accuses Jim of “self-dealing” when he unilaterally decided to make a $2.28 million partnership distribution in April 2016, paying himself while not making a distribution to John “for his share of the profits.”

After John “repeatedly demanded and requested” that he receive his portion, Jim wrote a check to John for $190,000, which he said was not timely.

The lawsuit asks the court to order Jim to be removed from the partnership, and that the partnership “should be dissolved and wound up as a result of the death of James Sr.”

Michael L. Carmin, John Dora’s attorney, declined to comment further on the suit.

James Jr. told IBJ he had “attorneys looking into it.”

“I won’t comment on any pending litigation at this time,” he told IBJ.

General Hotels Corp. was founded in 1962 by James Sr. and his brother and now owns 11 Indiana hotels, including the Crowne Plaza at Historic Union Station.

The hotel in question in the suit, which previously was a Holiday Inn Select, underwent a $6 million renovation in 2007.

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