The Real Deal New York

Father of Ace Hotel’s founder accuses COO of fraud, extortion

Brad Wilson sued for allegedly misleading Alex Calderwood's estate about chain's value

October 17, 2016 04:30PM
By Miriam Hall

From left: Brad Wilson, the Ace Hotel and Alex Calderwood (credit: Ace Hotel)

UPDATED, Oct. 17 at 6:24 p.m.: The trendy Ace Hotel chain is back in court, and this time, the company’s president and chief operating officer is in the firing line.

Tom Calderwood, father of the late hotel founder Alex Calderwood, filed a lawsuit Monday against Ace Hotel COO Brad Wilson for allegedly conspiring to swindle him out of his 51.7 percent stake in the company. Calderwood is seeking at least $14.5 million in damages, according to a complaint filed in New York State Supreme Court.

In court documents, Calderwood accuses Wilson of colluding with his son’s former business partner and developer Stefanos Economou’s entity Ecoplace to hide the “true financial condition” of the hotel. Calderwood claims Wilson has, among other things, manipulated balance sheets and income statements and actively tried to exploit Calderwood’s “lack of information and experience.”

Wilson is further accused of deliberately running Ace into the ground, and of paying himself and an another employee “exorbitant” bonuses. Calderwood also alleges that Wilson paid undisclosed payments to Ecoplace in order to make the chain seem less valuable.

“The allegations in the lawsuit speak for themselves,” Jim McDermott, the lead attorney for the Calderwood Estate, told The Real Deal in an email. “Had Mr Wilson treated Mr Calderwood like the rightful majority shareholder in Ace, Mr Calderwood wouldn’t have taken this step.”

However, Brad Wilson described the allegations as “patently false.” “I have complete confidence that the dispute with the Estate will be resolved in my and the company’s favor,” Wilson said.

Alex Calderwood, who founded the Ace Hotel chain in 1999, died from an apparent overdose in 2013.  His father was appointed as the personal representative of Alex’s estate and inherited the majority interest in the hotel chain.

Last year, Tom Calderwood sued Economou for allegedly trying to cheat him out of his interest in the business. Economou invested $10 million in the company in 2011. That suit is ongoing.

Tom Calderwood is not the only person claiming to be cheated out of shares in the wake of Alex’s death. Michael Bisordi, a part-owner of the hotel chain, is also accusing Economou of cutting him out of the profits. Bisordi, who also runs real estate firm Tungsten Partners, claims Economou is driving the chain into the ground.

Ace Hotel’s New York outpost is located at 20 West 29th Street in the Flatiron District. The chain is also opening a 178-key hotel at 225 Bowery, which Omnia Group and North Wind Group are converting from a soup kitchen.

Updated to include comment from Brad Wilson.

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