Timeshare king Siegel wants to settle Myrtle Beach class-action lawsuit

dwren@thesunnews.comFebruary 2, 2013 

— David Siegel, the self-professed timeshare king whose company failed to pay hundreds of Myrtle Beach sales agents their commissions, wants to settle a class-action lawsuit filed more than five years ago on behalf of those workers.

CFI Sales & Marketing Ltd., the company Siegel formed to sell timeshares at the oceanfront Westgate resort here, filed court papers Friday afternoon proposing a settlement in which the company would pay $500,000 to be shared by about 300 sales agents. Those sales agents previously obtained a judgment against Siegel and CFI for $650,000.

The case is supposed to go to trial Monday in Conway, but the trial could be over before it begins if the sales agents agree to the settlement offer and Judge Michael Baxley approves it. Lawyers for both sides could not be reached for comment.

This would be the second settlement agreement in the case. The sales agents agreed in January 2010 to accept $650,000 in payments from CFI, but Siegel’s company defaulted on the agreement after making just two payments totaling $50,000. CFI’s lawyers said during a court hearing later that year that the company had only agreed to have a judgment entered against it, but hadn’t promised to make all of the payments. Baxley then ruled that if CFI wasn’t willing to pay the debt, the sales agents could pursue payment from Siegel, other company executives and Siegel’s other businesses.

Judith Parker, a former Westgate sales agent and the lead plaintiff in the case, said at the time that she expected Siegel’s company to “pull out every dirty trick in the book to keep from paying.” Parker is owed $6,000 in commissions.

It has taken more than two years since Baxley’s ruling to bring Siegel to trial. That effort picked up steam last year after Siegel – a flamboyant businessman who claims to be building America’s most opulent home in Orlando, Fla. – appeared on national television shows boasting about his wealth.

Surfside Beach lawyer Gene Connell told The Sun News in October that Siegel’s statements – including a vow to complete his 90,000-square-foot home, nicknamed Versailles – indicate the Westgate founder has plenty of money to pay his workers. In an ABC News appearance in July, for example, Siegel said that while the nation’s economic collapse forced his family to cut back on their number of servants it did not impact his wife’s caviar purchases or her taste for Gucci, Valentino and Versace.

CFI lawyer John Wilkerson III said at the time that Siegel’s personal fortune has nothing to do with debts his companies might owe.

Siegel was supposed to appear in court last year to detail his finances but the hearing was canceled at the last minute after his lawyers told Baxley that the corporate jet was broke and they could not make the trip from Florida.

Siegel, who also is Westgate’s president and chief operating officer, sent mixed signals last year about his company’s financial health. In a September news release, Siegel said: “Westgate is operating at the highest profit levels in the history of the company.” Westgate raised more than $440 million in 2012 to pay down debt and provide extra liquidity for project development and acquisitions.

However, in a September email to Westgate employees, Siegel said the economic climate remains so shaky that he will start firing employees if President Barack Obama is re-elected.

“If that happens, you can find me in the Caribbean sitting on the beach, under a palm tree, retired, and with no employees to worry about,” Siegel said in the email.

Westgate continues to operate despite Obama’s re-election.

The local sales agents were paid an hourly wage but not the commissions CFI had promised for generating sales at the Westgate resort at 415 S. Ocean Boulevard. Westgate, which was founded by Siegel in 1982, operates 27 resorts in destinations including Las Vegas, Miami, Orlando, Fla., Branson, Mo., and Gatlinburg, Tenn.

Contact DAVID WREN at 626-0281.

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