Tag Archives: Joe Beninati

The Antares boys try a novel legal approach: we were too stupid to know what we were doing

Joe Beninati: "I really am as stupid as I look."

Joe Beninati: “I really am as stupid as I look.”

Joey Bagadonuts Beninati and Jimmy Cabrera lost control of their last possession, 100 West Putnam Avenue, Greenwich, to their creditors last year and are suing to recover management fees they claim are owed them, even though their written contract says otherwise. Here’s a partial transcript of a court hearing in the matter; the judge doesn’t believe them. Had they better counsel, they could have called anyone in Greenwich familiar with their business acumen to back up their claim.

THE COURT: I’m not talking about fraud in the inducement, I’m talking about fraud. You have a clear contract between sophisticated parties, black and white, signed off on. Where is there fraud?

[Counsel for Antares] MR. LEVINE: By making promises — not to fraud in the inducement. By making promises to us that we are entitled to certain — an oral agreement that we’re entitled to certain provisions, notwithstanding what is contained in the language of the agreement. We either have the — we’re either entitled to those things under —

THE COURT: Well, according to this — I believe there’s a merger clause in here stating it’s the entire agreement.

MR. FORTINSKY: Yes there is, Your Honor.

THE COURT: And, in fact, when it talks about amendments it talks about a writing.

MR. LEVINE: Yes. But under the — under New York law you cannot — the merger clause does not apply if — if the party — if one of the parties is reasonably led to believe that there’s something they’re going to be entitled to that they don’t get.

THE COURT: So what good is a merger clause? I never could understand that really.

MR. LEVINE: I’m only relying on New York law which provides that in the event there’s — notwithstanding a merger clause, if one party is frustrated in what their reasonable expectation is under the contract by the conduct of the other party, the merger clause does not preclude them —

THE COURT: It always seemed to me that that sort of says there’s no such thing as a merger clause. But let’s move on, because I really don’t understand that law. Just, I’m too thick.

MR. LEVINE: I try to be guided by the law.

THE COURT: But you’ve got, as I said, very sophisticated parties —

MR. LEVINE: Yes.
THE COURT: — and they’ve signed a contract.

MR. LEVINE: Yes.

THE COURT: Why would a sophisticated party assume things outside of the contract are part of a written

contract?

MR. LEVINE: ….[T]o your point about what — why would a sophisticated party: First, the issue of being a sophisticated party only applies under New York law if the sophisticated party could look to some objective fact to know that what they’re being told is unreasonable —

THE COURT: Well, it applies in all fraud cases, because there’s a reasonable reliance piece to every fraud case —

MR. LEVINE: Right.

THE COURT: — and that’s where it kicks in. So my question is: How could — Even if I would buy this argument, how could a sophisticated businessman, very sophisticated businessperson sign off on a contract and reasonably rely on oral — an alleged oral agreements that fly in the face of the contract language?

MR. LEVINE: The issue of whether or not my client  is dumb –

THE COURT: It’s not dumb, it’s –

MR. LEVINE: No, no, no. Well, it is. Because,Your Honor, because your question assumes that — The flip side to your question is this: What sophisticated businessman would forego $1.6 million  essentially would enter into a contract whereby he would (forego] million he had already earned, which is two years of management agreement — management services …

THE COURT: Doesn’t that happen in business all  the time? Shouldn’t there have been a writing to protect your client?

MR. LEVINE: That comes back to the issue of whether or not they’re dumb. And if I can just finish my point, Your Honor?

THE COURT: But you can’t be dumb in business.

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He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas

Or, "As a dog returneth to his vomit, [so] a fool returneth to his folly." Proverbs 26:11

Or, “As a dog returneth to his vomit, [so] a fool returneth to his folly.” Proverbs 26:11

Joey Bagadonuts, a/k/a Joseph Beninati a/k/a Antares Developers, is being sued for stiffing his NYC broker on a $600,000 commission.

Antares’ first foray into New York City property acquisition is already landing the Connecticut-based real estate developer and investor in hot water. A broker who worked on its nearly $24.4 million purchase of a Chelsea development site has accused the firm of stiffing him on commissions.

Boutique commercial brokerage Nathanial Christian Group filed suit in New York State Supreme Court on Oct. 31, claiming Antares failed to pay $600,000 in commissions to broker Nathanial Christian.

Christian claims he arranged Antares’ purchase of the 32,000-square-foot commercial building at 515 West 29th Street, between 10th and 11th avenues, as well as two packages of air rights tied to the property, which were bought from investor Peter Fine and the Related Companies.

Christian claims that Antares, which purchased the building in partnership with Bauhouse Group, later inked a agreement for Christian to represent them for a commission.

“I cannot express enough my disappointment in the clients and their betrayal in not paying the commissions due after all the hard work I did to make this deal happen for them,” Christian told The Real Deal.

Antares is the developer behind such mammoth office towers as 100 West Putnam Avenue in Greenwich, Conn. It lost that building to Torchlight Investors in 2012 after it defaulted on several loans attached to the property.

Next up: lawsuits brought by whoever was foolish enough to lend Benenati money on this project.

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Antares, Part III

Greenwich Time concludes its reporting on the Antares Boyz today. It’s a nice compilation of things that many of us knew or had heard about already but put together in one convenient package. The most striking thing, perhaps, is how the Boyz got (temporarily) rich on “acquisition” and “management” fees without ever producing anything of value. There’s a totally politically incorrect expression for how the boy from the Bronx, Joe Beninati, acted when he found himself with cash buring a hole in his Brioni blazer’s pocket, but suffice it to say, he spent it with enthusiasm.

James Cabrera and Joseph Beninati made sure to reward themselves for their company’s apparent success. In return for a 25 percent stake, Antares quietly received $40 million in 2006 from NorthStar Realty Finance Corp., a New York City-based company specializing in the acquisition of real estate debt and real estate securities, a confidante of the two men said.

Cabrera and Beninati were each said to have been paid $10 million, with the latter spending his share on a condo in Aspen, Colo., called The Little Nell and a development site in the Hamptons. Cabrera, always the more conservative of the two, used the money to pay off his Greenwich house.

Among NorthStar’s principals were David Hamamoto, who started the Whitehall Funds real estate group at Goldman Sachs, and Edward Scheetz, chief executive officer of Morgans Hotel Group.

Scheetz would get into the news for all the wrong reasons in September 2007, when he found his 24-year-old “girlfriend,” Michelle Hatchel, a former tanning salon worker from Colorado, dead in his Turnberry Towers condo in Las Vegas.

“She’s stiff. She’s stiff, and she’s turning funny colors,” Scheetz, a married father of two from Greenwich, said in a panicked 911 call.

Hatchel’s death was ruled an accidental overdose from cocaine and oxycodone, and Scheetz was not charged with a crime. Still, he would eventually resign his executive post at the luxury hotel chain.

Then there’s this, concerning the New Mexico State pension fund, which is rather amusing, if you aren’t a New Mexico state pensioner:

In 2005, New Mexico started up a limited liability company with what is now NorthStar Realty Finance Corp., investing $55 million in taxpayer money that NorthStar infused into various real estate developments in its portfolio, including Antares, said Charles Wollmann, a spokesman for the State Investment Council.

“I do believe that investment went south,” Wollmann said.

New Mexico received a devastating $16 million capital return on its initial investment, which had seen its net asset value tank to $12.8 million as of the end of the first quarter of 2009, the most recent performance report available from the state.

“That’s not one that we’re happy with,” Wollmann said.

In summary, here’s a tip on selecting people to invest with: if the principals who want your money had to attend “13th grade” at Choate in order to get into college, and later boast that they “attended Choate” without disclosing that they were there as participants in Choate’s “Diploma for Rich Dummies” program, put a hand firmly on your wallet and run, do not walk, away from them.

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At Long Last, Antares

Greenwich Time has finally published the Neil Vigdor article on Antares, our latest example of what happens to foolish people and their money in Greenwich. I’m linking to the Connecticut Post, which posts GT stories earlier than our local rag itself, I don’t know why and, though there’s no mention of more to come, surely there must be. This is just a snippet of the Boys’ pratfalls, hubris and greed and the best is, I hope, still to come. If you’ve passed by the empty, “fully leased at record rents” UST building lately, you’ll get the drift.

They built backcountry spec houses the size of big-box stores, sat behind home plate at Yankee Stadium, and partied like rock stars with black metal American Express cards.

But Antares Investment Partners had a darker side. The same alpha male executives who loved the trappings of superwealth also risked hundreds of millions in investors’ money on overleveraged, underperforming deals and tapped financiers who lined up to provide cash, never looking closely enough to see the cracks in the high-flying company’s facade.

“I said to myself, ‘This is going to end badly,'” said Matthew Allen, 37, an asset manager who worked for Antares from September 2006 until he was laid off in October 2007.

UPDATE: 10:15 AM: The story is now on the Greenwich Time website. It is, as readers said, intended to be a three-part series, so that should be fun. And this link has pictures and even a video of GT reporter Neil Vigdor having a “frank and fruitful discussion” (hey Walt, how’s that for the name of Fudrucker’s Disocount Real Estate?) with someone at “Lake Carrington”.

UPDATE II: from Brother Anthony:

The article states, “There was no real rhyme or reason to the choice of [of the name ‘Antares’]” but it was a prescient choice regardless. Antares, a bright star in the constellation Scorpio, is a red giant; vastly larger than our sun but with far lower density. Because of insufficient mass, red giants eventually implode and become white dwarfs. If there is a better metaphor for those Antares kidz I don’t know it.
Anthony Fountain

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Antares hits the Greenwich Time – it won’t be pretty

Watch for Sunday’s Greenwich Time. Front page story on the rise and fall of the Antares boys. [UPDATE – Not online as of 6: AM Sunday – Hmmm – did BJ O’Rourke, Terror of the New Canaan Bar, get the story spiked? Fascinating times at the Time – we’ll have to dig around and see what’s up on this]

 Neil Vigoda (?) has spent weeks, even months on this one and somehow I don’t think it will be the puff pieces the boys generated when they were strutting around town telling whoppers about their genius. Turns out, that remedial year at Choate didn’t do them much good after all.

UPDATE: And while you’re waiting for that story, GT has already posted the latest investigative reporting by its top intern, Susie Plate Lip :

Scene … Greenwich resident Judge Judy Sheindlin was seen dressed elegantly in her summer whites on Wednesday morning outside of the CVS on Greenwich Avenue.

Can this girl write, or what?

Scusie gets ready for her CVS stakeout

Scusie gets ready for her CVS stakeout

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Antares sucks an egg?

Joe Beninati, principal at Antares, is most famous in my book for his boastful brag that “hedge funds treat rent payments like lunch bills” meaning that he could rent out his new office space at $100 sf even if comparable space rented for $70. I wondered then what would happen if there were no hedge funds to move in to buy lunch or pay rent and reported last month that Duff Associates was trying to sublease the 15,000 sf it had agreed to occupy. Now comes word that Duff as we knew it is no more, having “rightsized” (don’t you love that term? New to me) by firing 80% of its workforce.

According to insiders, Duff’s expenses in building out his hedge fund have raised eyebrows and have caused a rift between Duff and Lindsay Goldberg.

Sources said Duff last spring spent approximately $70 million hiring a posse of hedge-fund management teams as well as constructing new office space at 100 West Putnam Ave. in Greenwich, Conn., spurring insiders to criticize Duff for having spent too much money before his firm made even a single investment.

A spokesman for Duff said the firm is facing the same headwinds that all hedge funds have and has been “rightsizing,” but declined to comment on Duff’s expenses.

At this point, it’s unclear if Duff is still running the firm he founded.

As long as Antares’ hedge fund tenants exist and can pay their bills, the landlord will make out – lease or sub-lease, the funds will remain liable for their rent. But if the funds disappear, so too does their rent and, Joe’s optimism to the contrary, commercial rents are sinking, not rising. He couldn’t replace these guys at $50 a foot, I bet.

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Landlord/tenant woes

Yesterday the Rainbow Grill closed. Today, the landlord ordered the Ciprianis from the Rainbow Room itself. But not to worry: Joseph Beninati, Antares Managing Partner from Greenwich insisted that he had a new tenant lined up at a rent that “will make hedge fund rents look like lunch money. We’re ahead of schedule and fully booked. We’re -“. Security guards pulled Mr. Beninati from the room before this reporter could elicit further comment.

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