July 21--SANTA ANA -- A judge has issued an arrest warrant for the son of Orange County's richest man for not appearing in court on a civil case where he owes millions of dollars to creditors.
Steven Bren, the 56-year-old son of The Irvine Co. owner Donald Bren, has faced a barrage of financial and legal troubles over the years, including a breach-of-contract lawsuit brought by Bank of America in which the court issued a $5 million civil judgment against him.
A judge previously found him in contempt of court and ordered him to be taken into custody until he can turn over about $2 million in property, pays back what he owes or persuade the court that he isn't able to pay.
On Monday, he was a no-show at a court hearing where he was supposed to be remanded in custody, prompting Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert Moss to declare him a fugitive of justice.
The judge late Thursday signed an arrest warrant and set his bail at $100,000.
Attorney Timothy Carl Aires, who represents Finance Holding Co., which purchased from Bank of America the judgment it won, said he's pleased with the court's actions to hold Bren accountable. A portion of the judgment has been paid.
"Our efforts to compel Mr. Bren's compliance with the court's orders will continue until the judgment is satisfied," he said.
Bren's attorney, William King, could not be reached for comment.
In court documents filed this month, Bren said he can't appear in court because he is in a rehab facility in Pasadena. Bren said he is not able to comply with the judgment because most of the assets he was required to turn over -- such as jewelry, furniture, and vehicles -- were given to his ex-wife in their divorce settlement.
"I have spent the past several years undergoing severe stress as I dealt with the weight of the tax liens and other judgments totaling tens of millions of dollars," Bren said in court documents, adding that he is undergoing treatment for substance abuse.
The arrest warrant includes Bren's most recent address as the rehab center in Pasadena. It is not clear when he will be taken into custody.
A former motorcycle and formula car racer, Bren went into business selling sports cars before following in his father's footsteps in property development.
He has become a fixture on the state Franchise Tax Board yearly list of tax deadbeats. In 2015, he appeared at No. 1, owing $4.5 million in personal income taxes to California.
On Friday, he was at No. 8, owing $2.9 million.
Bren has had several previous civil judgments against him, including owing $68 million to Union Bank for failing to repay a $94 million loan.
In the past two years, Aires has obtained court orders to sell Bren's $4.4 million Emerald Bay home and his $2.4 million Irvine office building on Research Drive, resulting in a reduction of Bren's outstanding California tax liens.
Bren has also run into legal troubles in Idaho, where he owns a home. In March, he was ordered to complete drug and alcohol rehab and serve jail time after he was charged with stalking his ex-wife, according to news reports.
His father's company, The Irvine Co., controls huge portions of Orange County's real estate. He appears at No. 66 on the 2017 Forbes' 400 list, with a net worth of $15.2 billion.
The Bank of America lawsuit alleges that Bren, under his company Sky Blue Aviation, defaulted on a $19.4 million line of credit to buy a private jet.
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