Two dueling Chinese businessmen have settled a federal lawsuit over a proposed $6.5 billion car plant in Mississippi, with both sides saying they can pursue the massive project on their own.
An attorney said a company owned by one of the men will unveil four prototypes in August and break ground on the plant this fall. He said the company already has a site plan ready.
“Our project is the original project that is going to go forward under a new name,” said Bill Brabec, an attorney for Xiaolin “Charles” Wang. “Getting rid of this litigation was pivotal to getting this project going again.”
The other man, Yung “Benjamin” Yeung, also said he planned to move forward with his plans for the plant.
Analysts, meanwhile, wonder about the viability of a project with the ambitious goal of producing 1 million cars a year and employing 25,000 people in north Mississippi’s Tunica County, just south of Memphis.
Secret discussions about the proposal were first revealed in June when a federal judge unsealed a nasty lawsuit involving Yeung and Wang.
Court documents said Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and other state officials were involved in the talks.
Yeung and Wang had disagreements over the terms of their “handshake” business deal and whether they were partners or Wang worked for Yeung, according to filings in U.S. District Court in Northern Mississippi. Each man accused the other of dubious business practices.
A settlement was reached Friday in the lawsuit, which was complicated by two dozen third parties and the fact that the name of Yeung’s company, Hybrid Kinetic Automotive Holdings, closely resembled one controlled by Wang, Hybrid Kinetic Automotive Corp.
Yeung’s companies said Tuesday in a statement to The Associated Press that they have the right to the “hybrid kinetic” name and “to pursue the hybrid automotive project in Mississippi without any interference from Xiaolin Wang.”
The governor’s office had no comment. A spokesman for Tunica County said he couldn’t discuss economic development projects.
Lyn Arnold, president and CEO of the Tunica Chamber and Economic Development Foundation, said the lawsuit settlement allows Wang and Yeung to compete over projects in Mississippi.
“There’s still a lot of details, because of confidentiality agreements, that I can’t discuss,” she said.
It’s not clear what, if any, incentives Mississippi or Tunica County officials have offered.
Brabec said Tunica County already has secured land and has been looking for a big industry, such as a car plant, to come to the area.
Halbrook Mohr/The Associated Press