A Manhattan Supreme Court judge approved a motion to subpoena billionaire investor Craig Hatkoff and two other residents of the famed Dakota on the Upper West Side, in the discrimination case filed by embattled hedge fund manager Alphonse ’Buddy’ Fletcher.
Fletcher, the founder and chief executive of Fletcher Asset Management, filed suit against the Dakota in 2011, alleging the co-op board refused his request in 2010 to buy an adjacent apartment at the luxury co-op for $5.7 million and combine the units into one. The suit claims that the board spread false and defamatory rumors about Fletcher to other board members, including claims about whether he could afford the additional space.
In July 2012, a fund managed by Fletcher filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Three months later, Fletcher’s original lawyers withdrew from the Dakota case, citing his failure to pay legal fees.
Hatkoff, chairman of Turtle Pond Publications and a co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, was subpoenaed for information that court documents indicate might relate to allege statements made by board members. Court documents allege that board members made disparaging statements about Fletcher’s finances to Hatkoff when he asked about Fletcher’s status.
Brokers familiar with the building said that Hatkoff is considered friendly with Fletcher and a supporter of his within the building.
Besides Hatkoff, two other residents, Matthew Mallow and Peter Sternberg were approved for subpoenas.
In court documents, the board has pushed back hard on Fletcher’s allegations, saying any rejection was due to his financial issues. In 2013, they noted that Fletcher was unable to follow through on a $4.5 million gift to Harvard University.
Attorney John Van der Tuin, representing the Dakota, declined to comment, saying to refer to the response in the court filings.
The 93-unit landmark building at One West 72nd Street is considered one of the elite properties in the history of New York. The building was the residence of former Beatle, John Lennon, before his murder, as well as legendary artists from actress Judy Garland to singer Roberta Flack and composer Leonard Bernstein.
Fletcher, one of the nation’s weathiest African American investors, originally bought a small one-bedroom unit at the Dakota in 1992, in an all cash deal — marking only the second time the co-op had ever permitted a black applicant to buy in the building. He claims that in 1993 he entered a deal to buy a larger apartment in the building, but the board required him to immediately sell his first unit, while other residents have owned multiple units in the building.
Fletcher claimed in court filings that Jews, as well as other people of color, have been discriminated against by the Dakota, including residents living in the building and applicants trying to buy units there. Among cases previously cited were Flack, who allegedly was forced to use a service elevator with her dog, and Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas, who were turned down from the building.
Investment banker and board president Bruce Barnes, a named defendant in the case, sold his apartment at the building earlier this year for $27.5 million to Canadian art collector Ydessa Hendeles.
Attorney Michael Tremonte, who represents Fletcher, was not immediately available for comment.