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Judge Tells ESun to Mediate Macau Casino Dispute With Investors

A Hong Kong judge told an eSun Holdings Ltd. unit and its partners in a Macau, China, casino project including Oaktree Capital Management LP and Silver Point Capital LP to settle their dispute through mediation.

Any unreasonable refusal to try to settle would result in a reduced award at the end of a trial, High Court Judge A.T. Reyes said at a hearing today on petitions by each partner for the other to be ordered to drop their interest in the project.

ESun unit East Asia Satellite Television (Holdings) Ltd. and New Cotai LLC, owned by Oaktree, Silver Point and former Las Vegas Sands Corp. executive David Friedman, announced plans for a $4 billion casino complex in 2007. East Asia and New Cotai are now suing each other for hindering the development of the project.

“Instead of the parties sitting at a table arguing, you have someone come in who tries to help the parties perhaps see it from a different perspective,” said Charles Allen, an accredited mediator based in Hong Kong.

Parties who don’t make a reasonable effort to resolve disputes in mediation when directed to do so can have legal costs deducted from any award, according to the court’s rules, he said.

Friedman declined to comment after today’s hearing, citing the ongoing litigation.

David Goh, a lawyer for eSun, said the company is discussing the prospect of mediation with its legal advisers and declined to comment further.

Reyes in July dismissed East Asia’s $2.39 billion claim against New Cotai, calling it “untenable.” He allowed a separate claim for $88.6 million against New Cotai for “inducing breach” of an agreement to proceed. An appeal hearing for eSun has been scheduled for May.

The project’s delay has already seen Playboy Enterprises Inc. terminate its licensing agreement to build a Playboy mansion on the site last year. The Macau government has said it may take back undeveloped land it has granted to investors.

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