(Bloomberg) — A real estate investor facing scrutiny from lenders and investors is now the subject of a government inquiry into an offer to buy shares in WeWork Inc.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has sent inquiries to Jonathan Larmore, the founder of Arciterra Cos., about a Nov. 3 press release in which an entity called Cole Capital Funds said it was seeking to buy shares in the coworking company at a significant premium, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be named citing private information. The inquiry includes Larmore’s trading history in WeWork stock and options, the person said.
A company filing links Larmore to Cole Capital Funds, which was registered in October with the Arizona Corporation Commission. The real estate investor was already facing an SEC inquiry about Arciterra, which had owned as many as 80 properties including strip malls, people familiar with the matter said.
In an interview, Larmore said that he planned to make all of the required filings related to his purchase of WeWork shares and that he couldn’t comment further on the matter until he had done so. He declined to comment on the SEC inquiry, and said that he was working through lawsuits filed by private parties and was confident in their outcome.
“Many of the lawsuits have been resolved and we will continue to resolve the rest,” he said.
An SEC spokesperson said the government agency doesn’t comment on the existence or nonexistence of a possible investigation. Investigations by the SEC, which hasn’t accused anyone of wrongdoing in the matter, don’t always lead to enforcement actions.
In the Nov. 3 statement, Cole Capital Funds disclosed an effort to acquire 51% of minority-ownership shares in WeWork, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy a few days later. According to the statement, Cole Capital Funds had offered to pay $9 a share after consulting “with God, legal, financial and other advisors” — a premium to the $1.11 closing price on the previous day.
After the release was issued following the close of markets, the stock rose briefly. A spokesperson for WeWork declined to comment.
Larmore founded Arciterra in 2005 and expanded the property business in many Midwestern cities including Indianapolis and Tulsa, Oklahoma. Arciterra’s holdings are worth about $570 million, according to recent testimony from a company executive in a separate case.
In May, a group of investors filed suit against Larmore in Illinois, alleging that he used client funds to pay for a Gulfstream G400, a yacht and a lavish party for his dog, Spike. The plaintiffs withdrew that lawsuit in October, although an attorney for the plaintiffs said that he planned to refile in Arizona.
“The allegations are baseless,” Larmore said.
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The filings for Cole Capital Funds list its agent as J. Moynahan Larmore and a Phoenix address that is home to a WeWork location. Its website names Moynahan Larmore as the company’s chief executive officer and touts a philanthropic effort called the G&D Foundation, short for “goals and dreams.”
Larmore has the middle name of Moynahan, according to public records. He started his career at real estate firm Cole Capital Partners, according to his LinkedIn. An entity called the G&D Foundation is registered to an Arciterra property in Punta Gorda, Florida.
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