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South Florida News

  • Got the power: Energy investor and former Enron exec pay $7M for Palm Beach house
    Schuyler Tilney and 222 Ridgeview Drive (Linkedin, Sotheby's)

    Schuyler Tilney and 222 Ridgeview Drive (Linkedin, Sotheby’s)

    An investor in energy services and his wife, a former Enron executive, bought a house in Palm Beach.

    Schuyler and Elizabeth Tilney paid $6.5 million for the nearly 4,000-square-foot home at 222 Ridgeview Drive, according to records. It was an off-market sale.

    The four-bedroom, five-and-a-half bath house was built in 2007. The home has a master suite on the first floor, gourmet kitchen, full home generator and water filtration system, with beach and bike trail access, according to a previous listing.

    The sellers, Edwin and Danielle Conway, paid $3.78 million for the house in 2017, records show.

    In July, the Tilneys sold a 19,600-square-foot lot in Palm Beach for $6.25 million to spec home builder Todd MIchael Glaser and his partners.

    Schuyler Tilney is chairman of oilfield services banking for Houston-based Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co., which provides strategic and financial advice to investors, management teams, boards of directors, governments and other professionals in the global energy industry, according to the company’s website.

    Tilney made headlines in the early 2000s as a managing director at Merrill Lynch. He was the lead investment banker in dealings with Enron Corp., a Houston-based energy, commodities and services company that ceased operations after scandals involving corporate corruption and accounting fraud.

    Tilney memorably invoked his Fifth Amendment right to refuse to testify during a 2002 Senate committee meeting on Merrill Lynch and Enron.

    Elizabeth Tilney was a senior Enron executive. She worked at Enron until January 2002 on the company’s crisis management strategy and is credited with introducing the company’s crooked “E” logo. She worked in account management for ad agency Ogilvy during the 1980s.

    High-end Palm Beach houses continue to sell despite the global pandemic. In July alone, the ritzy town saw rock star Jon Bon Jovi close on an oceanfront mansion for $43 million.

    In addition, cable TV mogul Jeffrey Marcus paid $16 million for a waterfront home, and an ocean-to-lake mansion traded for $51.4 million.

    The post Got the power: Energy investor and former Enron exec pay $7M for Palm Beach house appeared first on The Real Deal Miami.

  • J.C. Penney taps Cushman, B. Riley to sell 163 locations
    B. Riley Real Estate president Michael Jerbich and  J.C. Penney CEO Jill Soltau (Getty, Linkedin, J.C. Penney)

    B. Riley Real Estate president Michael Jerbich and  J.C. Penney CEO Jill Soltau (Getty, Linkedin, J.C. Penney)

    As part of its plan to reduce its portfolio and cut costs amid Chapter 11 bankruptcy, J.C. Penney is looking to sell off its interest in 163 locations across the country.

    The department store chain has tapped Cushman & Wakefield and B. Riley Real Estate to sell the leases for 142 locations, as well as 21 stores it owns, Business Insider reported.

    “There’s all kinds of interest and there are some good properties here,” B. Riley principal Jim Terrell told the publication.

    “There are residential investors who might redevelop these properties and there’s storage players who could use them for logistics. And then you have retailers themselves who could occupy it.”

    J.C. Penney declined to comment. Bankruptcy filings from May indicated that the company planned to close 192 stores this year and sell 50 stores that it owns next year.

    Bids for the leases are due by mid-September, while the owned stores may take longer to sell, according to B. Riley president Michael Jerbich.

    “Although there aren’t additional stores being offered for sale at this time, that could change as the process evolves,” Jerbich said.

    Several buyers are reportedly considering bidding for the J.C. Penney brand, including mall owners Simon Property Group and Brookfield, private equity firm Sycamore, and Amazon. [BI] — Kevin Sun

    The post J.C. Penney taps Cushman, B. Riley to sell 163 locations appeared first on The Real Deal Miami.

  • SEC opens investigation into hotelier Monty Bennett’s companies
    Hotelier Monty Bennett and Marriott Beverly Hills (Bennett via Ashford Inc.; Marriott via Booking)

    Hotelier Monty Bennett and Marriott Beverly Hills (Bennett via Ashford Inc.; Marriott via Booking)

    Texas-based Hotelier Monty Bennett and his affiliated companies came under public scrutiny in the spring when they received $68 million in coronavirus-related federal funding, despite having paid out millions in preferred dividends.

    Now, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has opened an investigation into at least three companies tied to Bennett, the Wall Street Journal reported. They are: Ashford Inc., along with subsidiaries Ashford Hospitality Trust and Braemar Hotels & Resorts Inc.

    The investigation targets related-party deals, including an agreement real estate investment trust Ashford Hospitality signed with a subsidiary of parent company Ashford Inc. The deals involved renegotiating mortgage debt while Ashford Inc. said it could no longer afford interest payments on debts, the Journal reported.

    The agreement could have paid Ashford Inc. up to $20 million to renegotiate mortgages and ask for forbearance from lenders. Bennett is a major shareholder in Ashford Inc.

    The SEC also asked for “accounting policies, procedures, and internal controls related to such related party transactions,” according to the Journal.

    Shortly after having received the PPP funding, and following public backlash, the companies tied to Bennett said they would return the money, which was meant to help businesses pay necessary expenses including payroll, rent, mortgage interest, and utilities. The total forgivable loan amount was among the most received by any public company.

    Ashford Inc. and its subsidiaries laid off around 7,000 workers during the pandemic. Regarding the PPP funding, the firms blamed the government on what it called “inconsistent federal guidance that put the companies at compliance risk.” [WSJ] — Dennis Lynch

    The post SEC opens investigation into hotelier Monty Bennett’s companies appeared first on The Real Deal Miami.

  • Private equity firm sells West Palm medical offices at discount
    4700 North Congress Avenue and Velocis Managing Partner Fred Hamm (Google Maps)

    4700 North Congress Avenue and Velocis Managing Partner Fred Hamm (Google Maps)

    A private equity group sold a medical office building in West Palm Beach for $5.2 million, a slight discount from its last sale price in 2013.

    Dallas-based Velocis sold the 43,797-square-foot West Palm Medical Plaza at 4700 North Congress Avenue for $118 per square foot, records show. WPB Medical Office, LLC, led by Andrew Greenbaum of Boca Raton, bought the property.

    Colliers International Florida’s Harry Blyden and Bastian Laggerbauer brokered the sale.

    The building sits on 5.13 acres. It was built in 1987 and underwent renovations in 2011. At the time of the sale, the building was 63 percent occupied, leased to seven medical-related tenants, according to a press release.

    The property last sold for $5.7 million in Dec. 2013, records show.

    West Palm Medical Plaza is near I-95 and 45th Street, with close access to Palm Beach International Airport and downtown West Palm Beach.

    Medical office buildings were initially hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, according to industry experts and lenders, since non-essential medical offices were ordered to close. But demand for the sector in recent years has been high due to the growing population of senior citizens and growing demand for senior living centers in South Florida.

    The post Private equity firm sells West Palm medical offices at discount appeared first on The Real Deal Miami.

  • Rent overcharge case targets “The Jeffersons” tower in NYC
    185 East 85th Street (Google Maps)

    185 East 85th Street (Google Maps)

    The Upper East Side tower that famously housed a TV family’s “de-luxe apartment in the sky” now faces sky-high damages from a class-action lawsuit.

    Tenants allege that the owners of the Park Lane, the rental building featured in the 1970s sitcom “The Jeffersons,” charged as many as 100 current and former tenants market-rate rents while receiving a tax benefit.

    The lawsuit names the owner entity of the 430-unit tower, which property records show is linked to an executive at investment firm Centerbridge. The executive, Lance West, also served as CEO of the property’s management company, Charles H. Greenthal & Co.

    A representative for Centerbridge, which manages $25 billion in assets, declined to comment. Charles H. Greenthal & Co. did not immediately return a request for comment.

    The plaintiffs seek $250,000 in legal fees plus damages equal to the alleged rent overcharges, meaning the difference between the actual rent and what was allowed under rent stabilization while the building received a property-tax break under the J-51 program.

    Rents at the 35-story Yorkville tower have been movin’ on up since 1975, when the fictional George and Louise Jefferson moved in from Archie Bunker’s neighborhood in Astoria. Units are now about $4,000 a month, according to StreetEasy.

    The attorney representing the plaintiffs, Lucas Ferrara, an adjunct professor at New York Law School and a partner at Newman Ferrara, said the tenants are “finally going to be getting a piece of the pie,” referencing the once-popular sitcom’s theme song.

    “While it is premature to offer precise rent-rollback calculations, damages are likely to be quite significant given the rents that were wrongfully charged,” said Ferrara.

    Tenant attorneys filed a slew of rent-overcharge lawsuits after last year’s new rent law increased the look-back period for determining overcharges and enlarged the monetary damages tenants could win in such cases.

    In April the state’s highest court ruled that the law had overreached on the look-back provision, but a previous ruling still requires landlords to offer rent-stabilized leases while receiving J-51 benefits.

    Ferrara said the case against 185 East 85th Street is the first class-action rent overcharge lawsuit brought since the April ruling. That Court of Appeals decision limited the new overcharge formula to cases brought after the bill passed in June 2019 — a rare bit of recent good news for multifamily landlords.

    The post Rent overcharge case targets “The Jeffersons” tower in NYC appeared first on The Real Deal Miami.

  • Lift off: Charter airline prez buys waterfront Coral Gables mansion for $15M
    6312 Riviera Drive and Jeff Conry (Realtor)

    6312 Riviera Drive and Jeff Conry (Realtor)

    The president of a charter airline company bought an estate in the Riviera neighborhood of Coral Gables, near the University of Miami.

    Jeff Conry, president of Miami-based iAero Airways, paid $14.9 million for the mansion at 6312 Riviera Drive, on the Coral Gables Waterway, records show.

    The 10,762-square-foot, six-bedroom, six-bathroom, house is on a 1.6-acre lot. It features a separate small house, tennis court, pool, dock and boat storage yard, according to records.

    The seller is Rene A. Garcia, founder of Jacavi Worldwide. Jacavi has made fragrances for celebrities including musician Pitbull.

    Garcia had paid $5.9 million for the house in 2012, records show. The home and small house were built in 1937.

    iAero Airways, which operates 33 aircraft, calls itself the largest charter airline in the U.S. Its privately owned parent, Aero Group, founded in 2018, includes airframe and engine maintenance, repair, and overhaul companies, as well as iAero Airways. The charter carrier was formerly called Swift Air before iAero Group purchased it and rebranded it last year.

    Coral Gables has seen several big-ticket home sales during the pandemic. In July, a private equity executive and his fashion designer wife paid $22 million for a waterfront mansion in Gables Estates.

    In June, companies tied to the Cisneros family of Venezuela sold an assemblage of land in Gables Estates for about $37.6 million — about $20.4 million less than the combined asking price.

    In April, the managing director at private equity firm Warburg Pincus in New York paid $7.75 million for a waterfront home in Coral Gables. Also in April, Leon Medical Centers founder Benjamin Leon Jr. sold a waterfront mansion in Gables Estates for $49 million.

    The post Lift off: Charter airline prez buys waterfront Coral Gables mansion for $15M appeared first on The Real Deal Miami.

  • “Blank-check” companies make a comeback in real estate
    From left: Trinity Investments CEO Sean Hehir and Benchmark Real Estate Group principals Aaron Feldman and Jordan Vogel (iStock, LinkedIn, Trinity Investments)

    From left: Trinity Investments CEO Sean Hehir and Benchmark Real Estate Group principals Aaron Feldman and Jordan Vogel (iStock, LinkedIn, Trinity Investments)

    The 1980s called. They asked for their investment strategies back.

    In July, an affiliate of prominent New York-based real estate investment firm Benchmark Real Estate Group raised money through a vehicle known as a blank check company. The Benchmark entity, Property Solutions Acquisition, raised $200 million by selling shares of a shell corporation to private and public investors.

    Such an entity — also called a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC — has no underlying assets. Rather, it’s a promise to investors that it will acquire a target company in the future. If no acquisition is made, investors are supposed to get their money back.

    Despite having a reputation as risky – the entities were associated with “pump and dump” penny stock schemes in the 1980s – SPACs are making a comeback. Bill Ackman, the billionaire hedge funder known for his crusades against Herbalife and Target, raised $4 billion through a SPAC in July. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, trucking company Nikola, and sports betting site DraftKings also raised funds through SPACs. Real estate is taking notice.

    “We simply viewed SPACs as an interesting business line for Trinity to be in,” said Sean Hehir, CEO of Trinity Investments, a Honolulu-based firm that has stakes in a number of hospitality properties in Hawaii, Florida and Mexico, according to its website. Hehir, in partnership with investor Lee Neibart, raised $300 million through Trinity’s SPAC in May 2018.

    Last year there were 59 SPACs, up from 8 in 2013, according to Jay Ritter, a finance professor at the University of Florida.

    “The main reason is that a lot of companies are saying that the cost of doing a traditional IPO is too high,” Ritter said. Hefty underwriting fees, which can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, are one burden. Another is the time spent on roadshows to gin up private investment, a period in which the company opens itself up to a lot of scrutiny and media attention, as was the case with WeWork.

    Hehir added that “today’s volatile market” made it tricky to go the IPO route “because underwriters can’t always price companies effectively.” In the case of renters and homeowners insurance company Lemonade, for example, underwriters targeted a share price of $29, which trading pushed to $69.38 on its first day, resulting in the company leaving hundreds of millions of dollars on the table.

    Proponents of SPACs see them as a better way to capture value for early investors.

    Aaron Feldman and Jordan Vogel, principals at Soho-based Benchmark Real Estate Group, roared through the New York multifamily market in the 2010s, acquiring buildings which they sold at a hefty profit for more than $400 million between 2015 and 2017. After sitting on the sidelines for a few years, Feldman and Vogel seem ready to get back in the game.

    Benchmark declined to comment or offer further details about its SPAC. Once the funds are raised, SPACs have about two years to find and acquire a target company. Former Vornado Realty Trust CEO Michael Fascitelli, for example, formed a SPAC in partnership with financier Noam Gottesman in late 2017, and closed on an $860 million acquisition of cell tower lease investor AP WIP this March.

    For managers of a SPAC, the payday can be significant. Managers often own about 20 percent of the outstanding shares, which they purchase at a fraction of the offering price.

    According to the Benchmark SPAC’s SEC filings, private investors can purchase shares for a price of half a cent each, compared to the public offering of $10 per share. That means an initial investment of $25,000 could yield $50 million if values hold.

    SPACs still have some drawbacks for real estate. Chief among them is that the entities cannot be used to acquire individual properties.

    “Once you raise the money, you start kissing a lot of babies,” said Trinity’s Hehir, likening the process of finding a target company to a political campaign. He said his firm looked at between 30 and 50 companies before ultimately merging with the Seattle-based capital firm Broadmark in November.

    “You actually aren’t allowed to have a target company in mind when you form the SPAC,” added Hehir, whose shares in Broadmark will remain locked up until a full year after the merger. Lionheart Acquisition Corp II, associated with Ophir Sternberg’s Lionheart Capital, the Miami-based real estate development and investment firm, was set up at the end of last year and is on the lookout for a company to acquire.

    Companies with real estate assets, such as a data company or a home listing company, could be promising targets, according to Paul Monsen, a capital markets advisor for George Smith Partners. Proptech companies have proven another popular target, such as Porch.com which just merged with PropTech Acquisition, a Los Angeles-based SPAC formed last year by Abu Dhabi Investment Authority veterans Thomas Hennessey and Joseph Beck. The deal values Porch.com at $523 million.

    According to SEC filing documents, Benchmark’s SPAC may also seek a proptech firm to merge with.

    Given the way SPACs are structured, they can be thought of as primarily a show of faith in the principals behind them. They may sound like a good deal to retail investors, since they can get in on deals that may have previously been restricted to institutional investors and big private players. However, SPACs do not have to disclose to investors which companies they are initially going to invest in, leaving investors to take a leap of faith. And they do have a reputation: blank check companies were commonly tied to penny stock frauds in the 1980s and their share prices were often manipulated to benefit stock promoters. Not until 2005 were SPACs required to submit a traditional registration to the SEC before going public, according to law firm Kirland and Ellis.

    “They (investors) are being asked to make an investment based on their faith in the (SPAC) managers,” said Tom Hazen, a securities law professor at UNC-Chapel Hill. “Unless a manager has a track record like Warren Buffett does, it’s a very risky proposition.”

    The post “Blank-check” companies make a comeback in real estate appeared first on The Real Deal Miami.

  • Brookfield’s nixed mall redevelopment may signal strategy shift
    Brookfield Property Partners CEO Brian Kingston and Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger (Brookfield; Weinberger by Vermont National Guard)

    Brookfield Property Partners CEO Brian Kingston and Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger (Brookfield; Weinberger by Vermont National Guard)

    A tough economic environment has led Brookfield Property Partners to cancel plans to redevelop a mall in Burlington, Vermont, and local officials aren’t happy.

    Brookfield became involved in the project in 2017, with plans to build apartments and a 10-story office tower on the now-empty site. But last month, it sold its interest in the project to local partner Devonwood Investors.

    “We made a lot of progress over the past three years, completing the assembly of the site and progressing approvals,” a Brookfield spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal, “but the long-term nature of the next phase of this development doesn’t fit with our funds mandate.”

    Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger criticized the investment giant’s decision to pull out without bringing a new partner to replace it, calling it “a breach of faith and a betrayal of trust.” The city issued a letter of default to Brookfield on July 22 and plans to pursue damages.

    “They understand that their reputation is at stake here,” Weinberger said. Brookfield says that its development agreement allowed it to sell its interest, but the city disagrees.

    In a 2018 investor presentation, Brookfield named the Burlington project as an example of its strategy of transforming struggling malls by shrinking the retail footprint and adding office and residential uses.

    But analysts say Brookfield’s redevelopment strategy may not be feasible in the current economic environment.

    “Tenants are likely slower to take up space now,” said Alexander Goldfarb, a senior research analyst at Piper Sandler Cos. “There is no rush to complete a new hotel or add new restaurants.”

    Brookfield is continuing its mixed-use redevelopment of the Stonestown Galleria in San Francisco, and counts Manhattan’s Brookfield Place among its prior mixed-use successes. [WSJ] — Kevin Sun


    The post Brookfield’s nixed mall redevelopment may signal strategy shift appeared first on The Real Deal Miami.

  • Arrivederci: Le Sirenuse at The Surf Club shutters permanently due to coronavirus
    Antonio Sersale and Nadim Ashi, with Le Sirenuse at the Surf Club (Credit: Google Maps and Jacopo Raule/Getty Images)

    Antonio Sersale and Nadim Ashi, with Le Sirenuse at the Surf Club (Credit: Google Maps and Jacopo Raule/Getty Images)

    Le Sirenuse Restaurant & Champagne Bar at The Surf Club has closed its doors for good, joining a growing list of restaurants that will not reopen due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    The Italian restaurant and bar made the announcement on Facebook, stating that Le Sirenuse and Fort Partners “made the mutual decision” that the restaurant would not resume operations, citing the impact of the pandemic. Fort Partners, led by Nadim Ashi, developed the oceanfront Four Seasons Hotel and Residences at The Surf Club.

    Le Sirenuse marked the first foreign outpost for the Positano, Italy-based restaurant at Hotel Le Sirenuse, owned by Antonio Sersale. The Miami restaurant, at 9011 Collins Avenue in Surfside, offered a similar menu, seating, plates and glassware as the original Le Sirenuse when it opened in March 2017.

    Le Sirenuse said it will be working “to resume its presence in North America and continue the great culinary traditions of Naples and the Amalfi Coast.”

    The luxury hotel and condo development also has the Surf Club Restaurant by Chef Thomas Keller, which is still open and offering outdoor dining, according to its website.

    A number of restaurants have decided not to reopen as a result of coronavirus, including chef Cindy Hutson’s Ortanique on the Mile in Coral Gables. Restaurant owners have found it increasingly difficult to survive after indoor dining was shut down again last month by Miami-Dade County.

    Some restaurateurs decided to temporarily close after the latest round of restrictions was put in place in early July.

    Write to Katherine Kallergis at kk@therealdeal.com

    The post Arrivederci: Le Sirenuse at The Surf Club shutters permanently due to coronavirus appeared first on The Real Deal Miami.

  • Miami’s condo market rebounds, led by $22M sale at 321 Ocean

    Miami’s condo market came back to life last week, led by a $22 million sale at 321 Ocean.

    A total of 153 condos sold for $80 million last week. That’s compared to 112 units that sold for $52.6 million the previous week.Condos last week sold for an average price of about $524,000 or $304 per square foot.

    Billionaire hedge fund manager Clifford Asness sold his 321 Ocean penthouse for $22 million, or $3,235 per square foot. The 6,800-square-foot unit was on the market for 248 days before it sold. Eloy Carmenate and Mick Duchon of Douglas Elliman were the listing agents. Seth Feuer of Compass brought the buyer.

    Unit 1401 in the south tower of the St. Regis sold for $6.5 million, or $1,674 per square foot. Oren Alexander represented the seller, and Ekaterina Lavrova brought the buyer. It was on the market for 123 days.

    Here’s a breakdown of the top 10 sales from July 26 to Aug. 1. Click on the map for more information:

    Most expensive
    321 Ocean #PH | 248 days on market | $22M | $3,232 psf | Listing agents: Eloy Carmenate and Mick Duchon | Buyer’s agent: Seth Feuer

    Least expensive
    Oceania IV #841 | 330 days on market | $835K | $357 psf | Listing agent: Daniel Mas | Buyer’s agent: Marina Luengo

    Most days on market
    Balmoral #15Y | 647 days on market | $1M | $530 psf | Listing agent: Boris Vertsberger | Buyer’s agent: Samantha Scalzo

    Fewest days on market
    Coconut Grove Bayshore #5B | 23 days on market | $1.1M | $625 psf | Listing agent: Daniel Hertzberg | Buyer’s agent: Carole Smith

    The post Miami’s condo market rebounds, led by $22M sale at 321 Ocean appeared first on The Real Deal Miami.