Home builder sues Cal Turner for $5M

Developer seeks payment on palatial home

A Middle Tennessee luxury home builder is claiming former Dollar General CEO Cal Turner Jr. owes $5 million toward the cost of his luxurious Williamson County estate.

In May 2005, Turner bought the as-yet-unfinished $8 million Fieldstone Farms home of Old South CEO Jimmy Franks and ordered a cavalcade of upgrades to the already grand residence, including a 24-car parking garage, a movie theater, a 5,000-bottle wine cellar and an indoor pool. More than five years later, in July 2010, the work was complete and, in the words of a letter sent from Franks to Turner, it was "time to settle up."

By the time it was all said and done, the construction of the home totalled nearly $35 million — exceeding the purchase price $26 million.

In a suit filed in Williamson County Chancery Court, Old South claims it is owed a $5 million builder's fee by Turner, citing a letter signed by Turner and Franks in August 2007. "I as owner, and you as builder, agree that the builder's fee will not exceed $5 million," the letter reads, in part.

Upon completion of the project, Franks sent notice to Turner seeking payment. According to the original construction contract, Turner agreed to pay Old South 25 percent of the total excess construction cost as a builder's fee — a sum that would be $6.2 million — but, in his completion notice to Turner, Franks acknowledged the August 2007 agreement to cap the fee at $5 million.

In response, Turner wrote to Franks, saying the $5 million fee was already paid via invoices sent during the five-year building process.

That letter refers to a paragraph in the original agreement, which stipulated monthly payment of $373,750 and a $250,000 deposit — totalling $4.735 million. Old South alleges that fee was simply to satisfy outstanding construction costs on the home as originally planned.

The numerous changes ordered by Turner after the execution of the original contract added more than 12,000 square feet, according to the suit, and were to be paid using a flat, 25 percent above cost fee. The ever-rising price of the project led to the August 2007 meeting and letter capping those costs at $5 million. Old South claims it has only been paid $265,000 of that additional fee.

The suit, filed on Old South's behalf by E. Buckley Cole, Byron Lindberg and Jennifer Eberle of Hall Booth Smith and Slover, seeks first a ruling on whether the August 2007 cap letter is a contract. If it is, Old South claims it is due $4.7 million. If it isn't binding, the firm wants the 25 percent fee of the original construction contract — some $5.4 million.

It is unclear who is representing Turner in the matter, which was initiated with the June 13 filing of Old South's complaint, available here. In the past, he has been represented by a number of the city's most powerful litigators.