The trouble with the Queen Mary continues. Amid reports of worsening ship conditions, the city of Long Beach not being sure what it wants to do with the ship, and failed plans, eyes have largely been off of the company that controlled the ship. It’s all coming to light now after an in-depth report by the Long Beach Post that exposes the lies and dealings of Urban Commons.
The report details the scheming Urban Commons was involved in. It all started when business partners and principals of Urban Commons Taylor Woods and Howard Woo presented themselves as saviors to Long Beach. Together, they wooed the city with an impressive $250 million plan for Queen Mary Island put together by famed local architectural firm Gensler.
Under the lease agreement, the city agreed to issue $23 million in bonds and Tidelands funds for Urban Commons to make critical repairs on the aging ship. The firm, for its part, promised to keep the ship in “first class condition and repair,” an assurance that could potentially cost tens of millions of dollars. The City Council approved the deal on a 6-1 vote.
Behind the scenes though, the Queen was nothing more than a prop to be used as the face of the company across the world to entice more investors. The company used images and videos of the ship in investment videos and promos. As late as 2019, the city started to notice that Urban Commons wasn’t taking care of the ship as it had agreed to. Like at all.
By early 2019, the city began to realize it may have a problem looming on the horizon. Urban Commons was not living up to its maintenance responsibilities, according to the city, and was failing to provide financial documents. Some of the Queen Mary’s vendors and employees were being paid late or not at all.
Urban Commons continued to behave as if shit wasn’t getting closer to the fan behind the scenes. The company needed money to fund that $250 million development for the ship. So what did it do? It took a shovel and started digging an even deeper hole.
It created a real estate investment entity called Eagle Hospitality Trust, which would be listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange. The Urban Commons properties—which Woods and Wu had earlier transferred to another entity they controlled—were sold to Eagle Hospitality Trust and then offered for sale to the public through shares. Woods and Wu were on the Eagle board and had the largest ownership stake in the venture.
It wasn’t long until trading stopped because the stock’s value tanked. That’s when everything started piling on. The company defaulted on a $341 million loan from Bank of America with the city telling the company its lease would soon default. Then the floodgates of lawsuits opened. A couple that invested $2.3 million and was promised a big return but has only seen $95,000; A teen boy who lost his deposit on a hotel room for his 18th birthday; The landlord of the company’s office building alleging it owes over $500,00 in rent. Even the company’s attorneys who represented it in bankruptcy court say they’re owed $500,000 in legal fees. And according to the Long Beach Post, this is all in addition to the “23 pages of people and businesses listed in the bankruptcy proceeding who lost a combined $1.3 million in deposits for various events they’d booked on the ship.” Did I mention the PPP loan fraud allegations the government is investigating against Woods and Wu? Eagle Hospitality filed for bankruptcy in January, $500 million in debt.
The worst part about all of this is that most of these people will likely never see a penny.
The reality is that most investors and creditors are unlikely to recover much, if any, of their money because there’s simply not enough left to go around.
While the future of the famed ship is still being decided, it may take years to clean up all the bullshit Urban Commons left behind.