By Harry Callahan
Special to The Daily Bellwether
CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Two of the Cincinnati area's savviest businessmen -- Jim Huff and Ralph Drees -- claim they are out more than a combined $3.4 million after placing their trust in a Columbus real estate firm in which they were minority shareholders. Huff and Drees are big names in Northern Kentucky. Details have emerged from James H. Huff et al v. Real Living Inc., filed last September in Hamilton County's Court of Common Pleas. Huff, in 2005, pulled out of a merger with Real Living less than four years into their corporate marriage. Real Living paid $4 million in cash to Huff and his band of lesser shareholders, including Drees. Another $4.5 million was to have been paid in January 2007. That never happened, the suit says.
According to one court document, Huff was personally owed $2.7 million, while Drees was due $671,032, Susan Huff Schilling and James Schilling a combined $509,882, and Rodney Huff $234,000, among others. With an interest clock ticking at the rate of $1,110 per day, the debt had grown to $5.8 million as of Feb. 12. Huff has asked Judge Steve Martin to order payment, even though he stated in court papers that Real Living claims it "cannot afford to make the payment." Real Living announced in November that it was merging with GMAC Real Estate of Oakbrook, Ill., to become an operation with "more than $20 billion in annual home sales." Real Living called itself "one of the nation's premier real estate companies and brands." Lawyers in the dustup include Mark Vander Laan, Bryan Pacheco and Mark Arnzen Jr. of Dinsmore & Shohl for Huff, and W. Kelly Johnson and Kyle Shaw of Porter Wright Morris & Arthur for Real Living.