Florida Ferris Wheel Deal Prompts Real Estate Sale Suit

Sept. 7 (Bloomberg) -- An investor in a failed bid to build a 400-foot-high Ferris wheel in Florida is asking a judge to appoint an independent monitor to oversee the sale of the attraction’s proposed site, according to an unsealed court filing.

Lawyers for Great Wheel Beteliligungs GMBH & Co. KG, formed to build a giant Ferris wheel in Berlin, contends the developer of the defunct U.S. attraction wants to improperly withhold more than $1.2 million from the sale of the site. The German company, which says it invested $63 million in the Orlando, Florida, project, wants Delaware Chancery Court Judge Travis Laster to appoint a receiver to monitor the sale.

The sale of the Great Orlando Wheel Corp.’s assets “would result in a windfall” for the owner of the Florida site and unfairly hamper the German company’s “ability to recoup its significant investment,” the lawyers said in the suit, filed Aug. 2. The case was unsealed Sept. 5 at the request of Bloomberg News.

Wil Armstrong, a spokesman for Great Orlando Wheel, didn’t immediately return a call for comment on the request for a receiver.

The German company contends Andreas Florian Bollen, chairman of the Singapore-based Great Wheel Corp., controls the Florida firm created in 2007 to build the “Great Orlando Wheel,” according to court filings. Bollen’s company has built giant Ferris wheels in London and Singapore.

Tourist Draw

Financial problems prompted Bollen to put the Orlando project on hold, Armstrong told the Orlando Sentinel newspaper in 2009. The wheel was designed as a tourist draw, offering panoramic views of Orlando attractions such as the Walt Disney Co.’s Walt Disney World and Universal Studios’ theme parks.

The Florida company defaulted on notes it secured as part of the project and has sought to sell the wheel’s 20-acre site for $12 million, lawyers for the Germany company said in court filings.

Bollen, who invested only $5,000 in the Florida project, is seeking to withhold more than $1.2 million of the proceeds of the sale and refusing to go forward with the deal unless that money is set aside.

A receiver should be appointed to remove the threat of “further financial harm” to the German investor, the company’s lawyers said in the filing.

Bollen’s Singapore Flyer, which was put into receivership in May, is the world’s largest Ferris wheel and can hold as many as 784 passengers. The wheel takes about 30 minutes to complete a revolution. At 165 meters high, it is 30 meters higher than the English Ferris wheel, known as the London Eye.

Orlando Eye

Another developer is pushing ahead with construction of a 425-foot tall observation wheel in Orlando as part of an entertainment complex known as “I-Drive Live,” according to the Sentinel.

The complex is slated to have a Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum and a Sea Life Aquarium in addition to the Ferris wheel, which will be known as the Orlando Eye, the newspaper said.

The case is Great Wheel Beteliligungs GMBH & Co. KG v. Great Orlando Wheel Corporation, 8768, Delaware Chancery Court (Wilmington).

To contact the reporters on this story: Jef Feeley in Wilmington, Delaware, at jfeeley@bloomberg.net; Phil Milford in Wilmington, Delaware, at pmilford@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net