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Maryland businessman sues arena operators over billboards

A Maryland developer and one-time First Mariner Bancorp CEO alleges that the operators of 1st Mariner Arena are using billboards that "are the sole property" of his own company, Arena Ventures, in a recent lawsuit . The commercial litigation contends that 1st Marine Arena is still using the developer's billboards from his company's time employed as an advertising subcontractor for the arena and demands $5 million in damages for the wrongful use of his personal property. Both the firm that owns the arena, SMG Holdings, and the advertising company that replaced the developer's company, are named as defendants.

According to the lawsuit, the arena's billboards and video screens were dilapidated and shabby when SMG hired Arena Ventures for advertising work in 2002. The plaintiff claims to be responsible for the large-scale renovations that updated the arena's advertisements and brought the arena an atmosphere reminiscent of "Times Square."

The developer said he funded the creation and installation of the billboards and video screens by himself, spending around $3 million. He recently explained that he hoped the enhanced advertising efforts would generate more revenue for the arena's Baltimore Blast, an indoor soccer team he owns. However, SMG Ventures hired a new advertising firm in 2012 and reportedly informed Arena Ventures that it could no longer sell advertisement in the area, despite the developer's claim that the billboards were his personal property.

The plaintiff argues that his business reputation has suffered considerably due to the incident, which has also caused him to sustain a "loss of advertising revenue." He was only allowed to erect the billboards after a significant and lengthy dispute with city officials over zoning, property rights and other related issues. His plan to construct the billboards was finally allowed to continue after years of delays when a Baltimore circuit judge dismissed a zoning code lawsuit against Arena Ventures in 2003.

Source: Baltimore Sun, "Ed Hale files $5M suit against 1st Mariner Arena operator," Luke Broadwater, March 12, 2013

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