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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tatum: Odd Man Out in Sour Deal

Paul Tatum met his violent end Sunday evening just a stone's throw away from the Radisson Slavjanskaya, the cement and glass hotel that has been both the object of and the setting for an acrimonious five-year dispute over control that is currently in arbitration.


Tatum, an Oklahoma native and president and chairman of Americom Business Centers, was a founding partner in Intourist-RadAmer Hotel and Business Center, a $50 million, Russian-American joint venture formed in 1990 by three partners: Americom Business Centers, Intourist and the Minnesota-based Radisson Hotels International.


In the heady atmosphere of the early '90s, the partners hoped to capitalize on Moscow's dire need for hotels that could also provide business and communications services.


Tatum saw Russia as an "entrepreneurs' heaven," and his part in the venture -- the hotel's business center -- as a door into that paradise. Intourist envisioned its half-finished, Yugoslav-built, $60 million building on Berezhkovskaya Naberezhnaya as a way to make hard currency. And Radisson Hotels International recognized a chance to get a foot in the door of a once-closed market. Under the conditions of the partnership, Americom would own a 40 percent stake, Intourist a 50 percent stake and Radisson a 10 percent stake.


But the ink had barely dried on the agreement before the honeymoon began to sour. Against the backdrop of the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Russian partner changed three times: from the initial Intourist to Russia's State Property Committee to the Moscow city tourism firm MosIntour to the Moscow City Property Committee.


A $33 million credit package from the American side -- known by the corporate name RadAmer -- fell through. The Americans subsequently had to rely on funds from available cash flow, leading to bitter disputes between Americom and Radisson. Americom also experienced difficulties with the joint-venture management, which accused Americom of sloppy accounting and failure to disclose its financial books.


The struggle came to a head in 1994 when Tatum attempted to oust the joint-venture director, cutting off his phone lines. The hotel management then posted guards at the entrance to keep Tatum out. Tatum returned two weeks later, followed by a suite of bodyguards.


During the summer of 1994, with the city of Moscow now acting as landlord, Mayor Yury Luzhkov stepped in. He wrote to Curt Carlson, head of Radisson's parent company: "If the present state of affairs does not change radically, city authorities and legal organs will be forced to liquidate the joint venture, as the government has indicated to Moskomimushestva [the Moscow City Property Committee]."


Meanwhile, the hotel chain sought to distance itself legally from Americom. By the end of 1994, Radisson had appealed to a U.S. District Court in Minnesota to dissolve the "tethers that bind Radisson and [Americom subsidiary] Moscow to the rotting corpse of the partnership," according to court documents. By March 1995, the court had granted a dissolution of Radisson's partnership with Americom.


Tatum found himself odd man out in the triple partnership. In March 1995, Umar Dzhabrailov, a representative of the Moscow Property Committee, was named acting general manager of the joint venture.


That April, Tatum received an eviction notice, with the management citing Tatum's debts to the hotel of nearly $300,000. A press release by the hotel management indicated at the time that the eviction was "fully supported by the Moscow city government, including the Mayor's Office."


The embattled Tatum refused to leave, saying, "I'm here until they carry me out. ... They're going to have to arrest me to get me out."


Dzhabrailov had said in an interview at the time, "I do insist that the only conflict here is the unwillingness of Paul Tatum to cooperate with his partners. ... He has yet to prove that anyone has ever threatened him."


Tatum said, "This has nothing to do with my paying or not paying a dime. What they want is the building."


Tatum had filed numerous lawsuits against his partners, stating in 1995 that as long as his lawsuits were in process the hotel had no right to evict him. He brought one suit against the Moscow Property Committee, accusing it of discriminating against foreign investors.


In September of this year, a Stockholm arbitration court began hearing the $35-million lawsuit. To finance his legal battles, Tatum had been trying to raise money through six-month "freedom bonds," securities guaranteeing a 100 percent return to investors.


Throughout the history of this highly volatile relationship, the Russian partners have threatened to dissolve the joint venture and possibly sell the property to a new owner, thus breaking the 20-year lease of the 1990 contract.


If the city were to liquidate the joint venture, the property committee could sell the building to the buyer of its choice, rather than offer it first to the original partners, as the initial contract had stipulated.


Tatum's antagonistic partners pointed to a bureaucratic justification for their actions: In an April 7, 1995, memorandum, they stated the venture's founding documents were "not valid" because they had not been updated by re-registering the joint venture as a joint stock or limited liability company, as mandated by Russian law in 1992.


In May 1996, the city of Moscow announced it was close to selling the hotel to an unidentified foreign investor. Anatoly Romanovsky, president of the Moscow International Tender Center, which was involved with handling the sale of buildings and land occupied by the joint venture, said at the time he expected the sale to go through without a hitch. Speaking of Tatum's role should the hotel be sold, Romanovsky said in May, "Maybe he can be made into a manager or an adviser or something."


Hotel Hostility





1983


Tatum loses approximately $1 million with collapse of Oklahoma City's Penn Square Bank, leaving Oklahoma City with small standing lawsuits from several different creditors





1987


Tatum creates Americom Business Centers





1989


Americom merges with a publicly owned Florida shell company, Apollo Acquisitions





1990


July 24: $50 million Russian-American joint venture registered as "Intourist-RadAmer Hotel and Business Center," with a lease for 20 years





$33 million credit package from RadAmer falls apart





1991


Americom evicted from its California office





1993


A California real estate company considers buyout of Americom





1994


January: U.S. President Bill Clinton stays in Radisson Slavjanskaya during Moscow summit





Tatum tries to oust the joint venture's director and has his phone lines cut off.





June: Tatum locked out of his office after both sides accused each other of a host of improprieties.





Summer: Yury Luzhkov writes to Curt Carlson, head of Radisson's parent company, "If the present state of affairs does not change radically, city authorities and legal organs will be forced to liquidate the joint venture, as the government has indicated to Moskomimushestva."





December: Radisson appeals to U.S. District Court in Minnesota to cut legal ties with Americom





1995


March: Umar Dzhabrailov named acting general manager of joint venture; Radisson wins order in U.S. court allowing it to dissolve partnership with Americom





April: Hotel management gives eviction notice to Tatum and cuts off phone lines, citing Tatum's debts to the hotel of nearly $300,000





Hotel general manager Richard Mason says, "All we want [Tatum] to do is pay his bill." Tatum says, "This has nothing to do with my paying or not paying a dime. What they want is the building."





1996


May: Tatum forcibly removed from hotel shop Technology Center by two members of the Moscow militia; representatives of the joint venture try to remove equipment from the Center to free it for new renters; Tatum files suit to have equipment returned; Moscow city government announces that it is close to selling the hotel to a foreign investor





September: Stockholm arbitration court begins hearing Tatum's lawsuit against partners; Tatum appeals to investors to buy "freedom bonds," with returns of 100 percent, to finance his lawsuits; Tatum writes letter to Luzhkov and publishes it in local papers, appealing to Luzhkov to "act upon what he knows is right" in the dispute





Nov. 3: Tatum gunned down near Kievskaya metro station





1997


April 2: Date of "freedom bond" maturity