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Billionaire's Coal Struggles Irking Biz Owners

The Greenbrier has had some legal troubles since Justice took over, with federal suits filed by Delta Airlines in 2011 and a landscaping company in 2010. Both plaintiffs claimed the resort didn't make good on contracts. Both suits have been resolved.

Justice "is absolutely a charitable, friendly person," said Paul Snyder, an Ashland, Ky., attorney who is representing two Kentucky men who claim Justice excluded them from a land deal. "But he's so much bigger than life, that in business he will act somewhat like (Donald) Trump, which is not good. He sees business as just a ... get-out-of-my-way situation."

The claim brought by Snyder is one of a handful that say Justice companies violated a contract over the acquisition of mine lands. Snyder's clients allege that Justice went around them to buy a huge coal mining company, Sequoia, after they brought the potential sale to his attention while looking for partners.

In another dispute over mining lands, a group of Kentucky landowners are seeking millions in federal court from a Justice subsidiary. They claim they've lost millions in royalties because the company was awarded mining rights but hasn't mined the land in two years.

Justice said settling debts isn't as easy as writing a check when his mines are trying to remain open and producing coal.

"The alternative would be, 'OK let's pay everybody what we owe them and shut everything down.' If you're a vendor selling widgets and you get paid but you don't sell any more widgets, that's not any good," he said.

Herbie Deskins, a former eastern Kentucky legislator from Pike County and attorney who is suing Justice on behalf of a drilling company, said business owners are in a bind because Justice mines are still operating when others are shutting down. He said his client, South East Drilling Supplies, would like to continue working for Justice but they want a $25,000 debt paid.

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