Made-for-TV Movie . . . No, It’s Brian O’Neill vs. Citizens Bank

Wegmans and Target opened to much fanfare at Uptown Worthington but the battle rages behind the scenes between the property’s developer Brian O’Neill and Citizens Bank.

This story has all the trappings of a made-for-TV movie drama.  The “man-versus-man” plot features a central character (Brian O’Neill) and an opposition character (Citizens Bank) as the primary actors. The central character has a goal and the opposition is going to attempt to stop the central character before he obtains the goal.  

The latest chapter in the continuing saga of the mega-million dollar lawsuit and countersuit between O’Neill Properties and Citizen Bank has attorneys for the bank accusing Brian O’Neill of harassment against five of the bank’s top execs. O’Neill counters the accusations; claiming that the bank destroyed evidence and lodges obstruction of justice allegations.

This week Brian O’Neill and Citizens Bank are headed back to court . . . once again, the courtroom becomes the legal playground for attorneys on both sides.  As the war wages on between developer and bank, the $700 million Uptown Worthington project on 106 acres sits largely unfinished.  Reportedly, O’Neill Properties is feeling the effect of the recession – the payroll has dropped 50%, down from 150 employees to 75 over the last couple of years. 

O’Neill’s battle with Citizens Bank is not confined to the Uptown Worthington project.  The developer-bank entanglement also includes a 100-acre corporate park in Bensalem and a 400-acre residential development in North Jersey. Much like a high-profile divorce is the split between O’Neill and Citizens.  For eight years, they enjoyed a good relationship with the bank offering $180 million in financing to O’Neill Properties.  The economic crisis hit . . . the bank wanting to lessen their financial risk pulled out of their deal with O’Neill Properties, which left the developer without a parachute.  Rather than sit on the sidelines and accept his fate, Brian O’Neill is fighting back hard and I don’t think Citizens Bank was quite prepared for their formidable opponent!

This would make a great made-for-TV movie if it were not playing out in our own backyard!

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