Chateau owner disputes allegations

Russel Hiles, the owner of a French chateau for sale near Sisters, said he built the home as a legacy.

“I was going to keep that,” he said Wednesday. “I built it to last forever, to pass onto my children. That was the plan.”

That was the plan until May, when he came out on the losing end of an arbitrator’s decision in Los Angeles, where Hiles, a lawyer, had previously worked for Farmers Insurance Exchange, a division of the Farmers Insurance Group. The arbitrator awarded Farmers $4.8 million, at Hiles’ expense, to settle a dispute over $2.5 million Farmers says Hiles misappropriated from an attorney-client trust account, according to a lawsuit filed in June in Deschutes County Circuit Court. Hiles disputed the allegation.

He said he had already decided to sell the chateau, with its seven-car garage and caretaker’s apartment — a total 10,000 square feet — to settle several debts. Lawyers for Farmers stated in court records that he was “dissipating assets,” moving them out of his creditors’ legal reach.

Not true, Hiles said Wednesday by phone from California. All the insurance company lawyers had to do was pick up the phone and call him. He said he had not yet been served with the lawsuit filed in Bend.

“Instead of avoiding the problem, I decided to take it head on and wanted to begin to pay the debt,” he said. “I’m not hiding anything.”

The chateau, on 40 acres about 5 miles southeast of Sisters off of U.S. Highway 20, will be auctioned in August, Hiles said. It’s currently listed with Cascade Sotheby’s International Realty for $11.9 million.

Hiles said his love of all things French inspired his vision for the estate.

“It took about two years to build,” he said, “and you have to understand, every wall in the entire house is 12-inches thick, concrete, no lath and plaster. Everything in there is first rate.”

The home itself is filled with period French antiques; the game room has one of the first Brunswick pool tables ever made, he said.

“In the great room, I put a French fireplace,” Hiles said, “the type you can walk right into.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7815, jditzler@bendbulletin.com


Source: BB Real Estate – topStory

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