ATLANTA — The California businessman who purchased property from Gov. Nathan Deal owns several adult businesses but plans to turn the Habersham County site into a large-scale pawn shop for boats and cars, his attorney said Friday.
Steve Diamond owns the adult video and novelty stores in California, along with pawn shops and jewelry stores. His attorney, Roger Diamond, said his client has "no interest and no intent in opening an adult business in Georgia." The two are not related.
Deal sold the property this week, helping to reduce his personal debt that once stood at $2.4 million.
As part of the arrangement, the governor is helping to finance the sale and allowing Diamond to make monthly payments to him with a 6 percent interest rate.
Deal accountant Jimmy Allen said he handled the sale and was shocked to learn Diamond also owned the adult businesses in California.
"We did not know about this and, if I had, I might have advised (Deal) not to go ahead with it," Allen said.
Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said the governor did not handle the negotiations and did not meet with Diamond. He referred all questions to Allen.
The president of the Georgia Christian Coalition said he was troubled by the deal between Diamond and the governor, a conservative Republican who ran with backing from Christian voters.
"He can remedy this by doing whatever he can to withdraw from the arrangement," Jerry Luquire said.
"Perhaps he can sell the note for the balance to a friendly financial institution."
Steve Diamond, who lives in Santa Maria, Calif., purchased the property from Deal for $750,000 in a sale that closed Monday. He put up $150,000, and Deal is financing the remaining $600,000. Diamond is paying Deal $4,500 a month, according to Allen.
Frank Alexander, a lawyer who specializes in real estate finance law at Emory University Law School, said such owner-financing is quite common, particularly for commercial property in the current market, where bank credit has been tight.
Several calls to Steve Diamond have not been returned.
The Baldwin land became news during last year's race for governor when it emerged that Deal was on the hook for more than $2 million after his daughter and son-in-law declared bankruptcy in 2010. They had launched a sporting goods store, Wilder Outdoors, on the site but the venture failed in 2009. The debt transferred to Deal and his wife, Sandra, because they had guaranteed the original loan.
Deal pledged he would make good on the money he owed and ruled out declaring bankruptcy. He has since liquidated his retirement savings to pay down the debt. His Gainesville home is also on the market for just under $1 million.
The money from the sale will help Deal pay down $1.3 million remaining on the debt. Deal placed most of his assets in a blind trust when he became governor but he kept the Wilder property and his Gainesville home out since they were for sale. Allen serves as the trustee.