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A barrier blocks access to Ontario Avenue outside the Aglo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., on Tuesday.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

In the years before Algo Mall's roof collapsed, business owners complained it was leaking, and one successfully sued the centre's owner.

Eastwood Mall Inc., which owns Algo, is controlled by Bob Nazarian, 66, of the Toronto area, who has previously owned other malls and appears connected to a real-estate investment company in California.

Mr. Nazarian refused to comment on Tuesday, referring all questions to his lawyer.

"I have had several buildings and I have always had good relations with everyone and never this kind of thing has happened, so I can't discuss about my past or what happened," Mr. Nazarian said, adding that the Algo is the only commercial building he currently owns.

Anne Marie Letarte ran a restaurant and take-out counter in the food court in 2007 and 2008. She alleged in court documents that leaks above her food counter twice caused the ceiling to collapse and she had to shut down the business.

In court filings, Eastwood asked for the suit to be dismissed, but a judge sided with Ms. Letarte last year and awarded her more than $11,000 in damages.

That year, Ea stwood hired contractors Peak Building Restoration. In court documents, the company said it did $823,657 worth of work repairing and waterproofing the roof of the building, but Eastwood paid only a fraction of the fee. Peak took out a lien, which expired in 2010.

It was a similar story with Read Jones Christoffersen Ltd., an engineering consulting firm, that said it performed a feasibility study on retrofitting the mall in late 2010 and early 2011, but wasn't paid $23,825. The court action was dismissed in March, 2011.

Property records indicate Eastwood bought Algo in August, 2005, for $6.2-million.

Mr. Nazarian's entire business history is unknown, but provincial documents show he registered Eastwood as a numbered company in August, 1994. He has owned a house in Richmond Hill, a suburb of Toronto, since 1995.

In January of that year, he bought Eastwood Square, a strip plaza in central Kitchener, Ont., for a little over $3-million. The property was sold in August, 1999, for $4.7-million. A newspaper report in 1999 also identified a Bob Nazarian as the owner of a plaza in London, Ont.

Mr. Nazarian is also listed as an officer of Hillcrest, a real- estate company registered to a suburban office building in Torrance, Calif., that owned a piece of property in a residential neighbourhood in Los Angeles several years ago.

With reports from Rick Cash and Stephen Spencer Davis