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Opus Corp. settles lawsuit with U.S. Bank

Burl Gilyard
Dolan Media Newswires

Minneapolis — Minnetonka-based real estate firm Opus Corp. and Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank have settled a $78.8 million federal lawsuit that the bank filed against the developer in mid-July alleging loan default and fraudulent transfers of assets to family trusts.

“The lawsuit filed by U.S. Bank against various Opus entities and the Rauenhorst Trusts in July 2009, has been settled on mutually acceptable terms. The specific terms of the settlement are confidential. … The fraudulent conveyance claims against the Rauenhorst Trusts have been dismissed with prejudice and cannot be reinstituted by U.S. Bank or its successors,” according to an e-mail attributed to Opus spokeswoman Winston Hewett.

The privately held Opus, started in 1953 by Gerry Rauenhorst, is owned by Rauenhorst family trusts.

U.S. Bank sued Opus this summer on behalf of a syndicate of lenders that provided a $150 million line of credit to Opus in 2007. In the lawsuit, the bank alleged Opus had fallen into default on the line of credit and had fraudulently transferred company assets to family trusts.

A U.S. Bank spokeswoman declined to comment on the case.

Throughout Opus’ current round of difficulties, Hewett has consistently declined requests for interviews with Opus chairman and CEO Mark Rauenhorst.

It’s been a tough year for Opus. Three of the company’s five regional operating groups have filed for bankruptcy protection amid the troubled economic climate for commercial real estate.

In January, Opus completed a headquarters expansion. But the company has shrunk so much, it no longer needs the new space and so it continues to try and sublease the 148,000 square feet of LEED-Gold office space.

The contracting company sold off its property management group, Opus Property Services, to Bloomington-based NorthMarq. As part of the deal, 125 former Opus employees now work for NorthMarq.
NorthMarq takes over management of a 30 million-square-foot national portfolio from Opus.

But the news hasn’t all been bad for Opus.

In August, Opus sold the first phase of the recently completed Crest Ridge Corporate Center in Minnetonka for $28.4 million, one of the larger local office sales of the year in a difficult year for investment sales.

Opus is building the third phase of the Excelsior Crossings office campus in Hopkins, slated to be done in March 2010.

And in St. Paul, Opus started construction in May on the 180,000-square-foot Anderson Athletic and Recreation Center for the University of St. Thomas. The project is scheduled to be finished in the fourth quarter of 2010

Recently, Opus Northwest announced that it broke ground on the second phase of the Lincoln Commons Retail District at RidgeGate in Lone Tree, Colo. The project will add another 100,000 square feet to the Denver-area retail project.

And the company also announced the grand opening of the first phase of The Shoppes at Fox River, a Milwaukee-area retail project anchored by Target.

The end of the high-profile lawsuit is another encouraging signal.

“We’re pleased this is behind us,” Hewett said.

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