Governor Jim Justice faces huge business debt as he seeks Senate seat


West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, a businessman turned politician, has been sued in court for years by banks, governments, business partners and former employees over millions of dollars in unfulfilled obligations.

And for a long time, Mr. Justice and his family's companies have managed to stave off one threat after another with deft legal strategy, especially at odds with the quirky personality that has endeared him to many West Virginians. On Tuesday, he is strongly favored to win the Republican Senate primary and win the general election, especially after the departure of Democratic incumbent Joe Manchin III.

But now, as he serves his second term as governor and campaigns for a seat in the U.S. Senate, things are looking even more difficult. Donald J. Like Trump, to whom he is often compared – with whom he often compares himself – Mr Justice has faced costly rulings and legal setbacks.

And this time, for Mr Justice, 73, and his family, there may be so many, some suspicious, it may not be possible to stop them all.

“It's a simple matter of mathematics,” said Mr. Justice of Beckley, W.Va., his childhood hometown. said attorney Steven New, who, like many lawyers in coal country, has tangled with Justice companies.

Mr. Justice and his many businesses will be able to handle some of these potentially multimillion-dollar judgments separately, Mr. New said. But “when you add it all up, and put the decisions together over time, it appears he doesn't have enough,” he said.

The son of a coal magnate, Mr Justice took over the family business in 1993 and expanded its interests beyond coal with acquisitions in agriculture and high-end hospitality. Like many giant enterprises, Justice Companies has taken on heavy debt. But not paying them has also damaged their reputation – and that may be getting to them.

A bank in neighboring Virginia that served the Justice family for decades has begun the process of recovering more than $300 million in defaulted loans. Some of the family business's prized assets, chief among them the 246-year-old Greenbrier Resort, are in the bank's sights, and collection of the governor's personal bank accounts and even his home is now a possibility. Efforts are already underway in Virginia to seize the assets of Mr. Justice's son, James C. Justice III, who is chairman of the family companies.

In West Virginia, tax authorities have placed a lien on Greenbrier properties for millions in unpaid taxes, just months after auctioning off tax-delinquent properties owned by the governor elsewhere in the state.

Amassing such substantial debts often pits creditors against each other for the benefit of judges. One bank sued Mr. Justice last month along with several banks after it discovered that the collateral for one of his loans, some land near the Greenbrier, was mortgaged to several other lenders.

In a separate case, a federal judge forced a Justice-owned coal business to turn over a company's helicopter to a creditor that was owed millions of dollars, who in turn gave the proceeds of the helicopter's sale to another creditor. Agreed to share with, which owed millions of dollars. And yet, lawsuits, judgments and recovery efforts continue to grow.

Neither the governor's office nor lawyers for the Justice companies responded to questions. Asked about his mounting pile of business problems, Mr. Justice has repeatedly said that the daily operations of his companies are overseen by his children, and he focuses on his duties as governor.

“There's no way I can take my attention away from the job I've been doing since day one, even for a second,” he told reporters in February. “I've put up with this crap as long as I've been here. But of course, there's no way I can take my eye off the ball.

Mr. Justice's most serious problem concerns Carter Bank and Trust, a regional bank based in southern Virginia. Carter Bank had been lending to the Justice family for decades, at one point lending approximately $775 million to Justice businesses, more than a quarter of the bank's total net loans at the time.

Justice Companies had been paying it steadily, but in April, they defaulted on the remainder of that loan – a $302 million loan that was personally guaranteed by the governor and members of his family. The bank demanded immediate repayment.

For judges, it was – as Mr Justice's son described it in a statement last summer – a “great crisis”. In November, the governor, his family and more than a dozen of his businesses sued the bank for a billion dollars in federal court, claiming that Carter Bank engaged in unfair and coercive tactics that made it impossible to repay the loans.

The lawsuit against the bank didn't slow things down. In January, a Virginia state court judge sided with Carter Bank and the bank wasted no time in starting the collection process.

Justice The companies took the case to the Virginia Court of Appeals, saying they could not pay the security bonds, which could be up to the limit. Any more than $25 million to $300 million and the collection process will stop. The court said it could not stop the collection effort.

Meanwhile, the bank announced it was auctioning off the Justice-owned Greenbrier Sporting Club, much to the surprise and consternation of club members, many of whom own multimillion-dollar homes near the club's golf course.

That auction is being challenged in court, and discussions are due to continue in an April hearing “in an effort to reach a solution that can address the concerns of all parties,” a lawyer for Carter Bank said in a filing. Was postponed.

But the prospect of losing the Sporting Club posed a threat to the crown jewel of the Justice empire: the Greenbrier Resort. Mr. Justice's decision to buy it from bankruptcy in 2009 made him a state hero, and since then, the resort, valued at more than half a billion dollars, has hosted Republican congressional retreats, pro football training camps and big-money Golf tournaments, including LIV Golf, a league created by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund.

This is one of Carter Bank's collateral, and not just Carter's: a loan of up to $50 million from JPMorgan Chase to Mr. Justice is also partially secured by Greenbrier. Legal cases involving Justice businesses often highlight a tangle of overlapping liabilities, and the battle with Carter Bank is no exception. In February, the Justice empire's largest lender, Credit Suisse, intervened and sued Carter Bank. Credit Suisse, which is owed about $850 million, said in its lawsuit that Carter Bank's collection efforts have made it difficult for Credit Suisse to collect its debts from Justice businesses.

Lawyers for Justice-owned businesses have often claimed that sued companies cannot pay because they do not have the money. But a series of plaintiffs have argued that this is a sham: Justice officials quietly empty company accounts being targeted by creditors and transfer the money to other accounts, thwarting efforts to collect the debt. Let's go.

A federal magistrate in Kentucky, where a company has been trying to collect millions on its judgment for years, has judged companies' moves to avoid handing over financial information “the most serious litigation misconduct” he has seen. ever encountered. bench. The federal district judge overseeing that case is now considering whether to hold senior Justice company executives in contempt.

As these threats continue to escalate, Mr Justice insists it is all a distraction. On his federal candidate disclosure form, he listed assets of up to approximately $2 billion and liabilities of less than $110 million; However, this list does not include any loans from Carter Bank or Credit Suisse, where his companies were the borrowers and he was the guarantor.

Regularly, he says that everything will be fine in the end.

“Our family has built a goods empire that employs a lot of people,” Mr Justice said at a news briefing. “At the end of the day, it feels like everything worked out.”

Their lenders may not agree.

Thomas Link, 59, who owns a small excavation business, was hired in 2021 to do some work for Justice-owned businesses. People told him he would regret doing business with judges, but, he said, the Governor himself had contacted him. Several months later, Mr. Link broke.

“'I told you so': that's all I heard,” he said.

On April 24, after a year and a half of litigation, the Justice Company settled with Mr. Link and agreed to pay him a fraction of the hundreds of thousands it said he was owed. The company defaulted on the first settlement payment.


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