Contractor C.C. Myers Files For Personal Bankruptcy
C.C. Myers couldn’t fix this one.
The legendary highway contractor, known for rebuilding California’s highways and bridges with lightning speed, has filed for personal bankruptcy. Myers is being sued for $40 million by Wachovia Bank over Winchester Country Club, an Auburn golf and luxury housing development that he personally developed.
“This is not a choice I wanted to make,” Myers, 70, said in a statement issued by a publicist. “It’s very difficult and heartbreaking for me and my family to go into bankruptcy, but I consider it my last and final option because of the losses I’m facing related to Winchester Country Club.”
The statement said Myers spent “many millions of his personal funds” on the project. He declined further comment.
The strapping, gravel-voiced contractor filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy late Friday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Sacramento. He said the filing doesn’t involve his contracting firm, C.C. Myers Inc. of Rancho Cordova.
In a suit filed last December, Wachovia said Myers personally defaulted on a $65 million loan for the Winchester project. Court records say Wachovia took over much of the property through foreclosure in May – including the country club, 137 unsold residential lots and an 18-hole golf course – and was still pursuing Myers for $40 million.
“We just couldn’t get them to settle,” said David Meegan, Myers’ bankruptcy attorney. “We tried.”
In his statement, Myers said, “The market conditions are the worst we’ve ever seen, and we were unable to convince our lenders to work with us to restructure the financing, so I was left with no other options. I’m devastated that it has come to this.”
Wachovia lawyer William Pahland Jr. declined comment.
Myers became the latest Sacramento-area construction tycoon to fall victim to the crash in the housing market. Sidney B. Dunmore, heir to the Dunmore homebuilding empire, saw the family business fold after 55 years in business. Another prominent homebuilder, John Reynen, filed for personal bankruptcy, owing more than $900 million.
Raised on a San Bernardino County farm, Myers has built a reputation as a master of highway reconstruction. He most recently oversaw the Fix I-5 project, which repaired a portion of the interstate in downtown Sacramento.
Last year he was hailed as something of a hero in the Bay Area after he completed two crucial freeway projects ahead of schedule: the MacArthur Maze near Oakland, which had collapsed due to a fire, and a section of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, which needed to be retrofitted for seismic safety.
Arguably his greatest triumph was the reconstruction of the Santa Monica Freeway following the Northridge earthquake in 1994. Myers’ crew finished the job 74 days before the deadline, securing him a national reputation and earning the company a $15 million bonus.
Winchester Country Club has been Myers’ passion since 1989, when he purchased a former hunting preserve near Auburn. After a decade spent obtaining permits, Myers began selling lots in 2000.
Eventually, 272 of the 409 residential lots were sold, Myers said. Some 110 homes were occupied when the development went into foreclosure.
On Monday, the development was quiet. As horses grazed along a hillside, houses stood empty and unsold. A 6,300-square-foot home, billed as a “French Country manor,” was being offered for $2.35 million. Elsewhere, construction equipment sat idle on half-excavated lots.
But the rumor mill – already stoked by news of the Wachovia foreclosure in May – was anything but quiet.
“There are 100 rumors going around every day,” said Richard Shepherd, a Bay Area transplant who retired to Winchester with his wife four years ago. “There are some very unhappy people around here.”
He said many homeowners were worried about declining equity in their homes. They’re also fretting that their club and golf memberships, for which they’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars, could decline in value.
“We love it here,” he said. “We just feel sorry for the people who’ve lost their equity, the money they pumped into being a member. It’s a mess.”
Kathryn Boyce, an analyst in Sacramento for consultant Hanley Wood Market Intelligence, said Winchester enjoyed its best year for sales in 2002, well before the market sank.
She said the project’s biggest problem has been its remote location, off I-80 north of Auburn. That’s made Winchester a tough sell for the over-55 crowd, a key market targeted by Myers.
“There has to be shops and stores nearby,” she said. “There has to be hospitals and things within walking distance, and there just wasn’t. It was too far out for people to really be viable for people 55 and over, and that’s why it didn’t work.”
She said none of the project’s 24 custom-built luxury homes has been built or sold. Those homes, which Myers expected to sell for more than $2 million each, were supposed to snare wealthy Bay Area and Los Angeles buyers.
“We’re talking about highly wealthy people who mostly travel on private planes,” said Myers’ son, Clint W., president of the Myers’ firm’s home building division.
“That’s our target. You can fly into Auburn with a Learjet,” the younger Myers told The Bee in 2006.