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February 16, 2011 7:00 PM

Retired Skadden Partner, LeClairRyan Looking Out for Trump on Potential Estate Buy

Posted by Brian Baxter

UPDATE: 4/8/11, 12:35 p.m. The Washington Post reports that Donald Trump has bought the Kluge winery for $6.2 million in a foreclosure auction.

Whether he's considering a 2012 presidential campaign or mulling an offer to buy a piece of the New York Mets, Donald Trump never ceases to surprise.

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that The Donald--with a little assistance from a retired Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom partner--is considering buying the Charlottesville, Va., estate of late media magnate John Kluge.

The estate--which includes a 23,000 square-foot neo-Georgian mansion, a 900-acre vineyard and winery, and another 200-acre chunk of land--has been the subject of a growing legal battle since Kluge, who founded Metromedia, died last September at 95.

The mansion, known as Albemarle House, currently carries a $24 million price tag, according to Sotheby's Web site. That's a steep discount from the $48 million that Kluge's ex-wife Patricia and her third husband, former IBM executive William Moses, were asking last year.

Several banks have filed foreclosure suits against the couple. The most recent litigation was initiated by Bank of America, which in January accused Kluge and Moses of defaulting on $23 million in loans. (Troutman Sanders partner Jonathan Hauser is representing BofA in that foreclosure action, which only concerns the house, not the adjacent properties.)

BofA officially took control of Albemarle House on Wednesday by winning an auction for the property with a $15.26 million bid, according to local news reports. Trump is now sitting on the sidelines with his advisers trying to work out a deal to acquire the property from the bank. The real estate mogul and television personality already has an agreement to acquire the 200-acre lot and is working on a deal for the winery.

In the middle of the ongoing negotiations over what will become of the estate is Leslie Goldman, The WaPo reports. Goldman, who retired as a Skadden partner in June and was on hand for Wednesday's auction hearing, tells The Am Law Daily that he's been working as a business adviser--not an attorney--for Trump, Kluge, and Moses since November. Once Kluge and Moses began having trouble with the banks last year, Goldman says that they were put in touch with Trump by mutual friends.

Goldman says a familiarity with the properties via his relationship with Kluge and Moses helped him get involved as an intermediary trying to broker a deal. Each party has their own counsel, he says, with Edward MacMahon, Jr., a solo practitioner based in Middleburg, Va., and Washington, D.C., representing Kluge and Moses in their legal proceedings.

Skadden's William Scherman in Washington, D.C., is also doing work for Kluge and Moses. LeClairRyan partner Steven Blaine in Charlottesville is handling the bulk of the legal work for Trump.

Goldman calls the work involved in unwinding the Albemarle House estate a "fascinating project," noting that there are three separate foreclosure actions: one affecting the house, another involving the winery, and a third connected to the 200-acre parcel. He says it's too early to tell whether or not Trump will be able to take control of all the properties.

Last June an auction of household furnishings from the estate netted $15.2 million.

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