Cousins Properties sues Bank of America Plaza owner

The 29-page lawsuit against Los Angeles-based BentleyForbes seeks unspecified damages stemming from the alleged breach of contract.

“This is an egregious breach of contract by BentleyForbes," Cousins spokesman Cameron Golden said in a statement Monday night. "They wrongfully terminated their own agreement after we provided first-class property management service. Their hidden agenda is to find a way to stop paying a multi-million dollar contract. This isn’t about service, it’s about money.”

The lawsuit alleges that BentleyForbes terminated the management agreement because the California company is behind in payments.

"Defendants, having been rebuffed in their efforts to buy Cousins out of the property management agreement in the summer of 2009 and suffering under massive debt obligations, are delinquent in their payment obligations to Cousins," the lawsuit says. BentleyForbes is "simply trying to avoid honoring their contractual obligations to Cousins."

BentleyForbes purchased the 55-story tower in 2006 for $436 million -- the peak of the real estate boom -- from CSC Associates, a partnership between Cousins and Bank of America. It subsequently retained Cousins to manage the property.

In an e-mail response, Jim Kasim, BentleyForbes' president and chief operating officer,  called the claims baseless.

"Contrary to the representations in the lawsuit, we have on several occasions communicated to Cousins our dissatisfaction with respect to its performance under the management agreement," Kasim wrote. "We vehemently deny the claims asserted by Cousins and we look forward to defending against these claims in court."

The lawsuit, filed Jan. 28, came nine days after Atlanta-based Cousins received a letter from the privately held BentleyForbes terminating its management agreement.

"This termination is based on Cousins' breaches of the management agreement and its breaches of its fiduciary duties to BF ATL, in connection with the solicitation of tenants at the property for relocation to other Cousins-owned or -managed properties and other related actions," BentleyForbes said in in its Jan. 19 letter to Cousins.

In its filing, Cousins described the tenant solicitation charge as "incorrect, unsubstantiated and nebulous."

The Bank of America Plaza, with more than 1.28 million square feet of space and situated on 3.7 acres, is Atlanta's tallest office tower and ranks as the sixth-tallest building in the United States. It is currently 80 percent leased.

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