Lawyer is $61M in debt

Goodstein

Straining under the weight of at least $61 million in debts, former state highway commissioner Arnold S. Goodstein has filed for personal bankruptcy.

The Summerville lawyer, who was once head of one of the region's largest local home-building businesses, owes much of the money to banks that made loans for land he planned to develop throughout the Charleston area, according to court records.

Some of the troubled real estate projects he had been involved with are partially completed subdivisions. Also, some tracts have been taken over by lenders through foreclosure lawsuits.

Goodstein, a 66-year-old former state senator who has a stretch of Interstate 26 named after him, estimated the value of his personal assets at less than $10 million, according to a filing with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

"The likelihood he's going to be able to repay (all claims) is pretty remote," said Columbia attorney Geoffrey Levy, who represents Goodstein.

A partial list of Goodstein's creditors include 10 banks and a family-owned partnership in North Myrtle Beach. A handful of those loans were not given a value because it's unclear what the land is worth in today's real estate market, Levy said.

Court documents list Tiente Limited Partnership as the largest creditor, with a $40 million claim. The Grand Strand family-owned entity began developing real estate in the 1930s and once owned 6,000 acres in the North Myrtle Beach area, according to news reports. The partnership is registered with the S.C. secretary of state's office to Phil Tilghman, a former longtime mayor of North Myrtle Beach.

Home builder Steve Hill, a former partner with Goodstein in Summerville Homes who parted ways with the attorney during the height of the real estate market, is owed $2.1 million, the filing shows. Hill said Friday the two men had differences over how quickly to expand the business.

"He wanted to become a Fortune 500 builder in about three weeks," he said. "He said to me that I was a dinosaur, but I was 60 years old and fairly happy with what I had done in Charleston during the last 38 years."

Goodstein agreed to buy out Hill but later did not pay him, according to a lawsuit filed separately from the bankruptcy case.

Goodstein could not be reached for comment Friday through Levy.

"Arnold is a businessman and as aggressive as he thought he should be under the circumstances," Levy said. "There were a lot of builders who were aggressive -- and some who were not so aggressive -- who still ended up in the same boat because of the nature of the downturn."

Goodstein's listed debts do not include dozens of lawsuits filed by subcontractors against Summerville Homes, which stopped operating in 2008.

Levy said those claims are business liabilities, not debts that Goodstein personally guaranteed.

Goodstein and Levy have four months to submit a reorganization and repayment plan for creditors.

Goodstein, whose legal clients include the Charleston County Aviation Authority, served for 10 years in the state Senate as a Democrat beginning in 1970. He also was appointed to the S.C. Transportation Commission for several years in 1996 but is no longer on that board.

Goodstein's wife, Diane Goodstein, a circuit judge, was not named in his Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. Their 19-room Victorian home in Summerville, once owned by Elizabeth Arden cosmetic company founder Florence Nightingale Lewis, is owned by Diane Goodstein, Dorchester County tax records show.

Reach Katy Stech at kstech@postandcourier.com or 937-5549.