Former Riverlife partner files for bankruptcy with $39M in debt

in News

By Shereen Siewert

The former principal partner in a multi-million dollar public-private partnership with the city of Wausau is more than $39 million in debt and has filed for bankruptcy, Wausau Pilot and Review has learned.

Mike Frantz is a partner in Frantz Community Investors, Frantz Investors, Quantum Ventures and Hotel Northland, all limited liability companies, according to bankruptcy documents filed in the Eastern District Court of Wisconsin. Frantz was part of the original development team for Wausau’s Riverlife Villages development, which included about $2.74 million in incentives. He remained a principal figure in the development until last spring.

During public meetings with city officials in 2017 and 2018 Frantz offered repeated reassurances about his net worth and ability to secure financing for Riverlife, which stalled in May 2018 after several companies filed liens connected to the project topping $3 million and ceased construction at the site. As recently as March 2018, Frantz defended his track record and insisted he would secure financing for Riverlife.

“I’ve had 20 developments over x years and one of them didn’t work,” Frantz told members of the finance committee in March 2018. “I’ll take that track record.”

But court documents show Franz is seriously overextended with three mortgages on his primary residence totaling more than $1 million on property valued at $900,000, and millions in unsecured obligations.

City officials in February 2016 chose Frantz Community Investors to spearhead the development, which is set to resume this month. Frantz had been competing with Mosinee-based S.C. Swiderski for the project, which is now in the hands of a new, local team.

City documents show that in September 2017, the council approved a resolution to replace developers Frantz Community Investors and Wausau RiverLife, LLC, with Barker Financial, LLC. Mike Frantz signed as the manager for FCI and RiverLife, withdrawing from the project, while David Barker signed for Barker Financial, making Barker the project’s new developer.

But bankruptcy documents show Frantz owes Barker more than $4.1 million.

Court filings show Frantz is claiming $3.9 million in assets, which includes a $1 million insurance policy for which he has an outstanding policy loan of $207,593.64, and two pending claims against business associates for $1 million each.

In November 2016 in Illinois, Frantz was sued for breach of contract in federal court by two former business partners, Gregory and Carol Hammann, who tried to recoup nearly $4 million Frantz owed after allegedly failing to repay a promissory note. The couple claims that Frantz paid only $120,000 of the balance, money which was allegedly part of a real estate investment. One month after the lawsuit was filed, Frantz formed a new LLC, Frantz Community Investors, and signed with the city to develop the Riverlife Village.

Now, Frantz is including the Hammann’s $4 million claim in his bankruptcy filing. The pending case is one of three listed in court documents; Also included is $3.1 million claimed by a former childhood friend who accused Frantz of defrauding him through a Ponzi-style scheme, which Wausau Pilot and Review first reported on in September 2018, and $3 million in a pending Iowa lawsuit.

In addition, court documents show Frantz also owes his former Quantum Ventures business partner, Jason Sharkey, more than $648,000. Sharkey withdrew from Riverlife after a Wausau Pilot and Review report that revealed past criminal charges that city leaders were unaware of before approving Quantum as the project developer.

Local architect Mudrovich & Co. along with The Samuels Group are also listed as creditors in court documents, which were filed in April 2019. In addition, Frantz owes the IRS more than $690,000 in back taxes, an amount he is disputing.