The Supreme Court of British Columbia has sided with site owner Oei Hong Leong in a lengthy legal battle between the Singapore-based magnate and Vancouver development giant Concord Pacific Group over the Plaza of Nations site.
In a judgement released on July 19, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Peter Voith dismissed Concord Pacific’s claim that Oei and his company violated an agreement on how to develop the site and acted in bad faith. Voith awarded Oei the costs of the legal proceedings in the case.
Concord Pacific attorney J. Kenneth McEwan said in an e-mail that the developer is considering an appeal. Oei could not be reached for comment as of July 22.
The case is one of the highest-profile real-estate disputes in downtown Vancouver in recent years, pitting two significantly wealthy entities at odds with one another over one of the most precious developmental land in the city. The Plaza of Nations was purchased by Oei in 1989 for $40 million, and the magnate had stated in recent years his desire to develop the location.
Concord was in discussion with Oei at one point for a $500 million redevelopment for the site, but negotiations on the details of the deal broke down after an initial “heads of agreement” reached in 2015.
When issues of payment from Concord Pacific and working with other developers for Oei arose, both sides took legal actions against one another, with Oei suing Concord Pacific in Singapore court and the Vancouver-based developer returning the favour in B.C., both in 2015.
In the B.C. lawsuit, Concord Pacific argued that the “heads of agreement” deal is a binding contract that Oei violated. McEwan said that, despite the decision, Concord Pacific notes that “the court accepted that both parties intended to enter and believed that they had entered into a binding contract” and that “if there had been a binding contract, the defendants breached it.”
But Voith said in his judgement that one of the key deciding factors was the fact that the “heads” agreement was not an enforceable deal.
“Concord argues that the parties entered into a ‘binding contract to negotiate the share transfer and other terms of the proposed development,’” the judgement read. “That proposition is generally regarded as inimical to the nature of a contract… ‘Agreements to agree’ lack certainty and do not give rise to contractual obligations.”