A former part owner of the land sold to Wynn Resorts for its Everett casino project is suing the company for breach of contract and fraud, alleging the company reneged on a handshake agreement to pay him $18 million above the purchase price.
In his complaint, filed in federal court in Boston on Tuesday, Anthony Gattineri cited Wynn’s “calculated refusal to honor their contract.”
Greg John, a spokesman for the Encore Boston Harbor casino project, dismissed the suit as “an attempt to now extract an additional multi-million-dollar payment from our company beyond what was negotiated and accepted by Mr. Gattineri and his partners in the Everett land transaction.”
Wynn, said John, followed the agreement “that was approved by Mr. Gattineri.” That agreement concluded years ago, he said.
“Mr. Gattineri’s claim that a publicly-traded company in a highly-regulated industry would execute a $20 million transaction on a handshake deal, without any documentation or paperwork, is implausible and will be vigorously defended by Wynn,” he said. “We have notified the Massachusetts Gaming Commission of the claim.”
The gaming commission’s legal department is reviewing the complaint, said Elaine Driscoll, an agency spokeswoman, in an e-mail Wednesday night. Driscoll declined further comment.
Attempts to reach Gattineri’s attorneys were not immediately successful Wednesday evening.
In the suit, Gattineri, who lives in Florida, said he has a 46 percent stake of FBT Everett Realty, LLC, which previously owned the land where the casino is being built. In Dec. 2012, FBT and Wynn entered into an agreement that provided Wynn the option to buy the property for $75 million if Wynn was awarded a casino license. Wynn, according to the lawsuit, used the commission’s “unfounded concerns” about FBT’s ownership of the land to knock down the price of the property by $40 million.
In 2014, Gattineri was arrested and charged with alleged improprieties in connection to the sale of the parcel to Wynn. Specifically, authorities alleged that Gattineri and two others -- Dustin DeNunzio and Charles A. Lightbody -- schemed to hide Lightbody’s financial interest in the deal to sell Everett land to Wynn. Lightbody had a criminal past, according to authorities.
All three were acquitted by a federal jury in 2016.
Gattineri was opposed to accepting the $35 million price for the land, but since he only had a minority stake of FBT, he could not stop the entity, through its manager, from agreeing to the deal, according to court documents.
State regulators, however, then required Wynn submit separate certificates from each FBT stakeholder certifying under oath that their ownership in FBT was “for themselves only and no other persons or entities.”
Gattineri refused to sign the certificate, which “caused a potentially fatal problem for Wynn’s licensing prospects,” according to his suit.
Wynn, according to Gattineri, threatened him with negative press and “dire economic consequences” in an attempt to persuade him to sign.
Robert DeSalvio, a Wynn executive, flew to San Diego to meet with Gattineri, according to his complaint. At that meeting, Gattineri said DeSalvio offered him his percentage of the purchase price reduction, which amounted to $18.6 million, if Gattineri signed the needed certificate. Gattineri said he shook hands with DeSalvio over the agreement.
Gattineri said when he asked the executive to put Wynn’s offer in writing, DeSalvio declined, telling him the casino operator was “more regulated than the nuclear power industry,” according to the suit.
Gattineri said DeSalvio told him not to worry, that “Wynn had many ways in which it could make Mr. Gattineri whole through other projects and developments,” according to the complaint.
But Wynn, according to Gattineri’s suit, “has taken no steps to meet its obligations under the contract it made” with him at the San Diego meeting. In the lawsuit, Gattineri alleged breach of contract, unfair trade practices, and fraud. He’s seeking damages of $18.6 million plus interest and court costs.
The company is scheduled to open a $2.5 billion casino along the Mystic River in Everett in June 2019, but has been rocked by controversy in recent months.
Steve Wynn resigned as the company’s chief executive in February after The Wall Street Journal detailed sexual misconduct complaints against him, complaints that went unheeded by supervisors in the company, according to the newspaper. Steve Wynn has denied the allegations.
In a symbolic break from the past, Wynn Resorts dropped the Wynn name from its Everett casino project in April, re-christening the property Encore Boston Harbor.Mark Arsenault and Milton J. Valencia of Globe Staff contributed to this report. Danny McDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.