Friday, February 5, 2010

UPDATE: Miami Bankruptcy Judge Rules Bank of America Lawyers Lied in Everglades Condo Suit

(MIAMI, FL)—Bank of America has lost the first round in one of the most controversial condominium developer-versus-lender lawsuits seen in South Florida in recent years.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Laurel Isicoff (top right photo)  has thrown out the Charlotte, NC-based bank’s petition to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Cabi Downtown LLC, a company owned by Mexican investors and based in Aventura, FL.

The judge found Bank of America lawyers falsified their Sept. 15, 2009 filing to dismiss the Cabi suit. That suit alleged the bank had lied in affidavits attached to its countersuit.

When Cabi filed for Chapter 11 protection, the bank alleged Cabi owed a balance of $209 million on a $256 million first mortgage loan.

Isicoff said she may also order the bank’s lawyers to pay all legal and other related costs that Cabi incurred in coming to the Feb. 4 hearing.

Cabi filed for Chapter 11 protection Aug. 18, 2009.

At that time, the developers’ petition stated it was seeking the court’s protection because slow condo sales were preventing them from meeting scheduled repayments on a $256 million first mortgage for the $300 million, 849-unit, 49-story Everglades on the Bay project. (middle left photo)

The property is at 250 Biscayne Blvd., the site of the former Everglades Hotel in Miami’s central business district.

According to a transcript of the Feb. 4 bankruptcy hearing reported by South Florida Business Journal, the judge said to the Bank of America lawyers:

“I don’t know what you all were thinking. I don’t know what else to say.

“I am going to issue an order to show cause why Bank of America and its counsel should not be sanctioned for the cost of all attorneys appearing at this hearing today for filing this motion and the affidavit.”

Another round of hearings in the case is scheduled for Feb. 11.

In an e-mailed statement to Real Estate Channel, Andrew Glenn  (middle right photo) of New York City-based Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman, one of Cabi’s bankruptcy lawyers, says:

"The debtor is gratified that the judge denied Bank of America's motions to dismiss the bankruptcy and to enjoin the Debtors' Deferred Purchase Program.

“We intend to pursue our plan of reorganization to maximize value for all stakeholders.

“However, the debtor remains very troubled that Bank of America made false statements that have damaged the reputations of the owners, management and residents of Everglades on the Bay and is evaluating its options to redress this substantial harm."

Cabi filed its bankruptcy petition after the bank refused to allow write-downs of sales prices.

The bank argued Cabi was violating guidelines that were agreed upon before the developer started a new lease-to-own program.

The bank alleged that Cabi’s leasing program “has damaged the value” of Everglades on the Bay, which “amounts to waste.”

In response, Cabi attorneys told South Florida Business Journal the bank’s accusations range from “outright falsehoods to gross mischaracterizations of the facts.”

Bank of America filed the allegations about the leasing program as an emergency motion. But the judge said during the Feb. 4 hearing the motion clearly was not an emergency.

“Having heard the evidence … I find that the debtors do have a legitimate intent to reorganize, and that the debtor did not file this case for the sole purpose of frustrating Bank of America's exercise of its rights as a secured creditor and, therefore, I find that the case was not filed in bad faith,” Isicoff said.

She added that the developer still must prove it can make the financial numbers work for a reorganization.

While many condo developers have similar rent-to-own programs, this one is somewhat novel because it is being played out in federal bankruptcy court, South Florida Business Journal reports.

When it entered bankruptcy, the 849-unit building had sold 739 units, but only closed on 122. There are now 249 units in the deferred purchase program. Both of the towers are being rented.

(Biscayne Bay Miami skyline middle left photo)

At the time of the bankruptcy filing, the $300 million project still owed $209 million on its BofA-led mortgage.

A January 2009 appraisal of the twin towers on Biscayne Boulevard, ordered by the bank, stated the project is worth $205 million. The latest appraisal, in October, stated a value of $184.5 million.

Cabi, owned by Mexican developers from the Cababie family, had proposed a new loan of $215 million in secured senior notes on which the lenders would get LIBOR (the London Interbank Offer Rate) plus 1 percent.

The developers later increased that number to LIBOR plus 2.5 percent – about 3.35 percent based on a recent rate of 0.85 percent for one-year LIBOR.

Cabi Downtown LLC is owned by GICSA, which says it is the largest and most profitable real-estate developer in Mexico. GICSA chairman Elias Cababie  (bottom right photo) assumed a leadership role in Cabi after Cabi CEO Jacobo Cababie died Jan. 26, 2008. #

Media contact: Dave Satterfield,

HFF Dallas hires Coler Yoakam to focus on firm’s net lease initiative

DALLAS, TX – HFF (Holliday Fenoglio Fowler, L.P.) announced today that it has hired Coler Yoakam (top right photo)  as a director in its Dallas office. Mr. Yoakam joins HFF as the firm launches a dedicated single tenant, net lease real estate transactions initiative.

HFF now offers dedicated personnel who assist owners during all stages of an investment life cycle as they provide turnkey solutions for owners in need of investment sales and financing services for their net lease properties.

The brokers spearheading this effort include managing director Mark West, (middle left photo) director Coler Yoakam and associate director Brandon Chavoya (middle right photo).

Mr. Yoakam will focus on implementing the net lease infrastructure and process at HFF as well as playing a key role in the origination and execution of net leased investment sale transactions.

He has five years of experience in net lease investment sales and was most recently employed as a senior associate at Connected Net Lease (affiliated with The Retail Connection).

Prior to Connected Net Lease, Mr. Yoakam was a senior associate at Staubach Capital Markets and prior to that, a manager of business development at Stan Johnson Company.

Mr. Yoakam has a Master of Business Administration from Thunderbird, The American School of International Management and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Denison University.

“The net lease industry in its current state is highly fragmented and lacks a full-service dedicated intermediary that can provide quality knowledge of capital markets. A singularly focused net lease initiative provides a complimentary service to our clients and is a natural extension of our current business lines.

HFF’s goal is to play an integral role in the net lease business by offering unique and creative solutions on a continuous basis to improve the quality and predictability of the client’s net lease program,” said West.

“Yoakam’s experience in creating marketing and brand management programs for his prior firm, a net lease company, is a perfect match for HFF’s newest initiative and we are excited to have him on board as we embark on this new program ,” added West.


Mark E. West, HFF Managing Director, (214) 265-0880,
Kristen M. Murphy, HFF Associate Director, Marketing, (713) 852-3500,

Grubb & Ellis Names David Burback Managing Director of Anaheim and Ontario Offices in California

SANTA ANA, Calif. (Feb. 4, 2010) – Grubb & Ellis Company (NYSE: GBE), a leading real estate services and investment firm, today announced that David Burback (top right photo)  has been named managing director of the company’s Anaheim and Ontario offices, effective immediately.

 In his new role, Burback will have responsibility for managing and growing Grubb & Ellis’ presence throughout Northern Orange County and the Inland Empire.

“Dave’s extensive experience in the industrial real estate sector and many client relationships throughout the local markets make him extremely qualified for this position,” said Jack Van Berkel (bottom left photo) , the company’s chief operating officer and president, Real Estate Services.

“Grubb & Ellis has a long history of success throughout the region, and we are focused on growing our presence to better serve the needs of our clients.”

Burback joined Grubb & Ellis in 2005 as managing director of the company’s South Bay office in Los Angeles. He most recently served as head of the company’s national Industrial Group. He has served as the acting managing director of the Anaheim office for the past six months.

“I am very excited about this new opportunity, and I’m especially looking forward to working with our professionals and our clients. We are committed to making Grubb & Ellis the real estate services provider by exceeding our clients’ expectations,” said Burback.

Prior to joining Grubb & Ellis, Burback was a principal at Northwest Realty Advisors for six years where he specialized in commercial investment services. He also spent four years as the senior vice president and general manager of Colliers International’s Portland office, a positioned he began in 1995.

Earlier, he spent 14 years with CB Richard Ellis in various management positions, including senior vice president and managing director of the firm’s Inland Empire office.

Burback holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California. He is a member of NAIOP and CoreNet Global.

Contact:  Julia McCartney, Phone: 714.975.2230, Email:

Grubb & Ellis Realty Investors Secures 90,000-SF Lease Renewal at Congress Center in Chicago

CHICAGO (Feb. 4, 2010) – Grubb & Ellis Realty Investors LLC today announced that it has secured a 90,138-square-foot lease renewal with AkzoNobel for space at Congress Center, (top centered photo)  a 16-story, Class A office building located in Chicago’s West Loop (bottom centered photo)

The lease renewal extends AkzoNobel’s lease by six years, through the end of 2019. Grubb & Ellis Realty Investors manages the property on behalf of multiple investment programs and individual investors.

“In the midst of an incredibly difficult commercial real estate environment, Grubb & Ellis Realty Investors is very pleased to have executed this lease,” said Robert Assoian, senior vice president of Asset Management, who oversees the asset on behalf of the owners.

“By renewing and extending AkzoNobel’s lease, we have further stabilized Congress Center and realized additional value on behalf of the investors we serve.”

Located at 525 W. Van Buren St., Congress Center offers approximately 520,000 square feet of rentable space.

 Built in 2001, the building’s amenities include a two story lobby that features granite, glass, exotic wood and stainless steel trim, 24-hour monitored building security and a secure heated indoor executive parking garage.

Acquired by Grubb & Ellis Realty Investors on behalf of investors in January 2003, Congress Center is situated one block from Union Station, Chicago Transit Authority lines and in close proximity to the Congress Expressway. In addition to AkzoNobel, notable tenants include Amtrak, the United States General Services Agency and North American Insurance.

Mark Parrish and Sara Spicklemire of Grubb & Ellis Company negotiated the lease on behalf of Grubb & Ellis Realty Investors.

 Rob Schmidt, A.J. Magner and A.J. Whitehead of Jones Lang LaSalle represented AkzoNobel.

Contact: Damon Elder, Phone: 714.975.2659, Email:

Real Estate Capital Market Leaders Cautiously Optimistic

LAS VEGAS,  NV -- As lenders gathered here this week to discuss income-property financing programs, nervous optimism filled the air.

The overall forecast is mildly positive -- particularly as compared to 2009. Funding sources were battling liquidity in 2008; rebuilding balance sheets in 2009; and are now earning profits in 2010 which means mortgage investing is back in vogue again.

However, lenders fear more uncertainty as the capital markets are imbalanced with relationship to income-property supply & demand fundamentals. Based on key opinions of various lenders an economic outlook relating to realty capital markets is summarized as follows:

· Modest job growths combined with controlled government spending discussions directly affect the current economic recovery, slowly trickling into the real estate capital markets. A 10%+ unemployment rate is still problematic, though.

· Slowly recovering economy due to improved CMBS pricing, housing sales and employment statistics.

· Policymakers are also helping by holding interest rates low at levels favorable for real estate markets.

· Industry leaders are reporting a pickup in capital activity including hiring staff, allocating more funds for advertising/marketing and bidding on more transactions.

· Commercial-property problems loom including hanging vacancy (especially office and retail), less space needs, increased operating costs.

· As lenders workout of their legacy problems, new funding goals surface which are clearly more ambitious than 2009.

· Life companies under less pressure than banks to liquidate assets, if recovery is on the horizon – longer-term balance sheet hold.

· Still a “buyers market” bias due to flat or declining pricing and lower demand, a worrisome scenario for sizing property values.

In summary, industry experts agree that these and other factors will assure that mortgage capital will be readily available in the foreseeable future. The realty capital markets should continue on a path of greater liquidity.

 Yet the biggest trick will be finding suitable real estate investments as the property markets are recovering slower than the capital markets.

Contact: Nat Zvislo, Research Director, Toll Free 800-994-RECI (7324),