Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Brivik deals offer lesson about real estate boom

Whether the decision to invest came from Mark Brivik’s silver tongue or the glossy brochures he foisted upon impressed investors, River Meadows seemed destined to make everyone piles of money.

Brivik’s 2005 plan called for nearly 70 homes on an idyllic bend of the Manatee River. It offered future residents the best of old and new Florida — canoe trips, fish shacks and access to the nearby Waterlefe and Lakewood Ranch golf communities.

But instead of becoming one of the signature developments of the real estate boom, River Meadows is one of the best examples of how questionable deals were hashed out amid the money-hungry frenzy of the real estate bubble.

After collapsing within 18 months of securing the necessary financing, the River Meadows deal helped bring down Bradenton’s First Priority Bank in 2008 — the first of many bank failures in Southwest Florida.

It cost Brivik’s investors millions of dollars they may never recover and triggered a lawsuit against one of Sarasota’s most accomplished real estate attorneys.

On July 19, state law enforcement officials arrested Brivik and his wife, Marie, and locked them up in the Sarasota County Jail. The pair, who were hosting catered soirees at their Longboat Key home just a few years earlier, are accused of defrauding the seven real estate investors behind River Meadows.

While only the Briviks are charged with any wrongdoing, the deal could not have come together without a handful of lawyers, bankers and appraisers.

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