L.A. businessman pulls out of deal to buy former Chanute hangars


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RANTOUL — Los Angeles businessman John Van Der Velde has informed the village of Rantoul he is pulling out of a deal to buy the four hangars and the building that houses the AT&T call center on the former Chanute Air Force Base.

A deal for $5.45 million that featured more twists and bends than a crochet work fell through because, as Van Der Velde said in a letter to the village this week, he was unable to complete the due diligence required.

Van Der Velde did not return a phone call asking for comment Friday.

Rantoul Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer said village officials are not sure what part of the due-diligence process Van Der Velde could not complete.

"He knew from the beginning what our expectations were" — to have the process wrapped up by June 15, Eisenhauer said. "We made it very clear. Nor to us did it matter. It all needed to be met. I think he just recognized that, at the end of the day, he was not going to be able to meet it."

The agreement with Van Der Velde was altered seven times from what he first proposed in March 2018. Under the final agreement, Van Der Velde would have received lease payments from the village for the rental of Hangar 3 over 10 years.

The rental would have been to accommodate the Half Century of Progress farm show, which is held biennially at the former base. The farm show draws upwards of 100,000 visitors to the community. The I&I Antique Tractor and Gas Engine Club, which holds the farm show, has used one of the hangars for storage and other purposes.

With the deal having fallen through, it means Van Der Velde will be required to pay back the village a little more than $36,000, which would end the financial obligation he had to the village.

Had the deal gone through, Van Der Velde would have been required to pay $6.223 million initially, with another $5.925 million paid to the village 15 months after closing.

The village would have made the monthly lease payments for Hangar 3 totaling $6.275 million during the 10-year life of the contract. That was designed to keep Van Der Velde from backing out of the deal once it started.

The $6.223 million paid upfront by Van Der Velde would have been placed in a separate village account to be used to lease the hangar.

It is unknown what use Van Der Velde had planned for the hangars.

Eisenhauer said the village will move on.

"Quite honestly, already interest has been expressed in some of the buildings that were part of that deal," Eisenhauer said, adding that the village board will meet in closed session at Tuesday's study session to discuss what price the board wants to place on the buildings.

Dave Hinton is editor of the Rantoul Press, a News-Gazette Media community newspaper. For more, visit rantoulpress.com.