Firm in charge of Andretti Global's new shop sued for $11.3 million in Hamilton Co. Court
INDIANAPOLIS – Cardinal XLIII, Andretti Global’s “single-purpose project owner” behind the construction of the race team’s new $200 million, 575,000 square-foot Fishers race shop, is among the defendants in a lawsuit filed Monday in Hamilton County Court by Dillon Construction Group, the contractor of the project.
Among the counts levied by Dillon against those in charge of the project include breach of contract, fraudulent transfer and copyright infringement. Dillon also filed for lien foreclosure against additional parties listed in the suit, including Motorsport Real Estate Ventures, LLC; Studio M Architecture and Planning, LLC; Gradex, Inc.; and Glenmark Construction Company, Inc.
Outside the costs, fees and statutory damages sought by DCG, the construction company is also seeking payment of nearly $11.3 million that includes a past-due January invoice ($565,574.54), a February invoice ($1,011,462.21) and funds associated with the termination of the pair’s contract ($9,717,243.48). At the center of the legal battle exists a dispute over whether Cardinal XLIII properly terminated its contract with DCG for-cause.
"We are aware of the filings by Dillon Construction Group (DCG) relating to the building of the Andretti Global Headquarters," Andretti Autosport said in a statement provided to IndyStar. "The build of a new global headquarters remains a priority and the project will continue to move forward."
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According to court documents filed with the Hamilton County Court and reviewed by IndyStar, the parties struck a ‘design-build contract’ around Andretti Global’s new shop on Nov. 4, 2022, putting DCG in-charge of the design and construction that was scheduled to open in 2025. According to the complaint, DCG had previously assisted Andretti Autosport on multiple projects, including a conceptual design and budget for a new shop in Speedway, Andretti’s purchase and reinstatement of the Toronto Grand Prix, everything surrounding the Grand Prix of St. Pete and studies around potential races in Boston, New York City and Ft. Lauderdale.
Tension in DCG’s relationship with Cardinal XLIII arose in mid-February, according to the complaint, when Dale Dillon, the founder of DCG, phoned Jeff Bernstein, a representative for Bradford Allen Reality Services (the company retained by Andretti Global to run Cardinal XLIII) to inquire about the company’s late payments, to which Bernstein replied, “I’m not dealing with this (expletive). I hate this (expletive) design-build (expletive). You’re terminated,” according to the complaint filed by DCG.
Bernstein then called Dillon the next day, insinuating that DCG agree to a joint-venture relationship with Clark Construction if they wanted to continue working on the project. “I’m not putting my reputation on the line for some little contractor. If you want to go to war with a bunch of billionaires, we’ll bury you,” according to the complaint filed by DCG.
According to the complaint, Cardinal XLIII sent DCG an amendment to the pair’s design-build contract Feb. 23 that would make the construction company responsible for on-site work only, removing roughly 90% of its work – and therefore its fees and potential profits, according to DCG. The construction company later rejected the amendment proposal, refusing to hand over work to Clark. In a letter dated Feb. 26, Matt Millis, a lawyer with Easter and Cavosie – the law firm retained by DCG for this case – called the company’s attempt to pull back work from the pair’s signed contract “anticipatory breach.” Additionally, he accused Cardinal XLIII of tortious interference for direct contract with DCG’s architect, Studio M, in an effort, DCG claimed, to contract directly with the architect firm and cut DCG out of the construction project.
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Millis closed the letter with this: “We are surprised by the Owner’s brazen disregard for the terms fo the parties’ written contract. We hope to hear from you soon to better understand the Owner’s stance and intent for the future of this Project.”
In a follow-up phone call, DCG claims Cardinal XLIII’s lawyers stated the company “never intended to hire DCG for anything beyond the site work” – despite DCG’s reading of the pair’s legally binding contract language – and that Cardinal XLIII “needs a large, financially-backed contractor to obtain funding.”
Millis would go on to send a pair of follow-up letters, dated March 1 and March 9 – the latter of which accused the other party of “anticipatory breach, repudiation and constructive termination of the contract”, leading DCG to invoke the payment of the more than $11 million it believed it was owed.
The next day, according to court documents, Cardinal XLIII moved to terminate the contract, effective seven days from March 10. Among its list of complaints in the letter signed by Bernstein, Cardinal XLIII accused DCG of: awarding subcontracts without approval, not producing design drawings in a timely manner and significant omissions in the drawings that had been submitted.
But on that deadline, the complaint states that Bernstein emailed Dillon that, “As we discussed this morning, your contract is reinstated. My only request is that any work contracted by you or any financial commitments that you make are, as the contract dictates, first cleared with us. If there is any issue with this, please feel free to reach out to me directly. Also, as we discussed, I will make sure that January’s draw will be paid in full ASAP.”
Nearly two months later, Easter and Cavosie received another letter – this from a lawyer representing Bradford Allen – referencing written communication with Millis on March 28 (which was not included in the court filing) and stating that Cardinal XLIII and DCG’s design-build contract “was terminated effective April 7 for cause.” Among the complaints Cardinal XLIII levied against DCG included those from the March 10 communication, as well as failure to maintain design schedule, failure to submit design drawings for approval, a failure to provide monthly reports, failure to “understand Andretti’s criteria,” the disregard of a stop work order made Jan. 20, unapproved budget increases and unapproved communication with the City of Fishers.
"We terminated Dillon Construction Group for cause after it committed multiple breaches of contract and turned down several opportunities to remain involved with the project in a lesser capacity," Bradford Allen said in a statement provided to IndyStar. "We deny the allegations made in DCG’s complaint and will not be commenting further at this time due to the pending litigation."
In the complaint, DCG says it held near-weekly design meetings and provided regular ideas and monthly reports, that its communication with Fishers officials wasn’t prohibited by the contract and denied various other charges, claiming Cardinal XLIII was levying the accusations to attempt to terminate the contract “for cause” and avoid payment.
According to the complaint, DCG’s ‘fraudulent transfer’ count involves Cardinal XLIII transferring the title to the property on which the shop project will be housed to an LLC named Motorsport Real Estate Ventures, noting both it and Cardinal XLIII “share identical or common ownership.” The move, the construction company claimed, was done with the “intent to hinder, delay or defraud” DCG, should it ever attempt to recoup money from the original title-holder.
DCG also accused Cardinal XLIII of continuing to use its designs it licensed to the project management company, under the assumption it would fulfill its end of the pair’s contract. “Cardinal wrongfully terminated the design-build contract and failed to pay DCG all sums when due, and the license for it to use DCG’s instruments of service has been terminated,” the construction company’s lawyers wrote in the complaint. “But despite being warned by DCG counsel, Cardinal has continued to use DCG’s instruments of service.”
The suit’s final count involves lien foreclosures against Motorsport Real Estate Ventures, Gradex, Studio M and Glenmark, after the latter three filed for mechanic’s liens against the future shop property for a combined sum of more than $500,000. According to the complaint and a separate motion for pre-judgement attachment, DCG has moved for the property to be seized by the sheriff of Hamilton County and be sold “to pay and satisfy DCG’s claim and debt, with the proceeds of a sale to be applied first against the payment of costs and expenses of a sale” as well as the claims of Studio M and Gradex.
According to the parties’ contract, all disputes must run through the mediation process before moving through the court systems, and DCG subsequently has already motioned to stay the proceedings for 60 days while the parties have a chance to workout their differences – whether it be adjusting or ending their relationship or settling for what would likely be an undisclosed sum of money.