Student Housing Pioneer Patrick Nelson Grapples with $115 Million Legal Debacle, Investor Outrage

By Leira Aquino

Mar 18, 2024 11:46 PM EDT

Patrick S. Nelson established Nelson Partners Student Housing in 2018. Now, the student housing pioneer is entangled in turbulent legal conflicts, confronting a substantial $115 million debt.
(Photo : Nelson Partners Student Housing)

Patrick S. Nelson, a prominent figure in the off-campus student housing sector, finds himself embroiled in a tumultuous legal battle, facing mounting debts totaling a staggering $115 million. 

The once-thriving business built by Nelson is now plagued by lawsuits, mad investors, and judicial scrutiny, painting a grim picture for the embattled entrepreneur, according to a report from the New York Times

Financial Strain of Patrick Nelson's Student Housing Empire

At the heart of the controversy lies Nelson's failure to fulfill financial obligations to his partners, a fact exacerbated by his refusal to comply with court orders.

Despite facing escalating fines and interest, Nelson remains defiant, eliciting frustration among investors and lenders alike.

"I am seeing a lot of money moving around, and I don't like it," remarked Justice Melissa Crane during a court hearing involving Fortress Investment Group, one of Nelson's primary adversaries.

Nelson's troubles stem from alleged misuse of company funds, leading to him being held in civil contempt by judges on two occasions. 

Testifying in a recent hearing, Nelson defended his actions, citing the necessity to cover essential expenses. "There were bills we had to pay," he stated.

Nelson's tumultuous journey dates back to 2018 when he established Nelson Partners Student Housing after parting ways with his brother, marking a significant foray into the burgeoning student housing market. 

However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic dealt a severe blow to Nelson's ventures, triggering a cascade of financial woes exacerbated by legal battles and negative media coverage.

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Patrick Nelson's Legal Battles Since 2021

According to The New York Times, Nelson's predicament has escalated into a series of lawsuits from disgruntled investors and lenders, with over a dozen legal proceedings since 2021.

Notably, private equity firm Fortress Investment Group is pursuing foreclosure on Auraria Student Lofts in downtown Denver, where Nelson is indebted to the tune of $57 million. 

Another significant case revolves around a luxury student housing apartment tower named Skyloft near the University of Texas in Austin, where investors allege fraud and claim losses amounting to tens of millions of dollars.

Nelson's approach reportedly entailed procuring student housing properties by leveraging funds sourced from investors. He then channels rental income towards covering operational costs and yielding profits.

Furthermore, Nelson has faced civil contempt charges twice for purportedly diverting company funds for personal expenses, including lavish vacations and golf outings.

These allegations have sparked outrage among investors and exacerbated tensions in the legal battles.

Despite his tribulations, Nelson remains resolute in his efforts to alleviate the financial burden, exploring avenues for new financing and pursuing property sales to mitigate debts.

In his testament on Tuesday, he revealed his active pursuit of selling three student housing apartment complexes. 

Nelson has consistently stated his confidence that acquiring new financing and selling properties at a profit will generate sufficient funds to meet investor obligations and eliminate his debts.

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