From left: Ben Ashkenazy and Shaya Boymelgreen
Diamond-dealer-turned-developer Shaya Boymelgreen has two more legal headaches to deal with, from a private lender and a former law firm, seeking more than $22.2 million.
National real estate investor Ben Ashkenazy claims he lent Boymelgreen $21.5 million in 2008 but that the embattled builder has failed to pay the money back, a lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court says.
Ashkenazy, CEO of Midtown-based Ashkenazy Acquisition, which owns an interest in mostly retail properties from Manhattan to Beverly Hills, says in the complaint that he lent the money so that Boymelgreen could consolidate a number of debts into one, and that the loan with a 12 percent interest rate was payable 30 days after it was demanded. Demand was made Feb. 1 but the promissory note was not repaid, so Ashkenazy filed suit March 8 in New York State Supreme Court.
But that is not the only case filed against Boymelgreen this month. The law firm Satterlee Stephens Burke & Burke, headquartered in Midtown, alleges in a complaint filed last Thursday in New York State Supreme Court that 20 entities affiliated with Boymelgreen and Lev Leviev’s Africa Israel Investments owe more than $741,087 in unpaid legal fees from 2006 to 2009.
Boymelgreen and Satterlee Stephens did not respond to requests for comment. Ashkenazy’s attorney cited his client’s policy not to comment on litigation. Laurie Golub, general counsel for Africa Israel affiliate AFI USA said through a spokesperson that she was not aware of the litigation.
The two legal fronts opened eight months after Boymelgreen reentered the public sphere following more than three years of relative silence. At one time he was a top developer in New York City with high profile projects in Manhattan such as the condominium conversion at 20 Pine Street in the Financial District. In Brooklyn he built the condo building Novo Park Slope at 343 Fourth Avenue.
But these suits are just the latest for a man who has been the target either personally or through one of his companies of 30 suits over the past seven years, a count of state court records shows. In Manhattan, he or an affiliated company has been named in 21 cases brought State Supreme Court since 2004. He or one of his firms was named in nine cases in Brooklyn and one in Queens.
He did not always face such legal hurdles. He founded Boymelgreen Developers in 1994, and in 2002 formed a joint venture with Africa Israel to develop real estate in the United States. That agreement generally provided that Africa Israel would have a 65 percent ownership stake in each individual project, and Boymelgreen would get a 35 percent stake, the Satterlee Stephens complaint says. The arrangement also laid out that Africa Israel would pay Boymelgreen a 5 percent management fee on each project, and his firm would be responsible for hiring and supervising legal services.
In 2004, Boymelgreen Developers hired Satterlee Stephens for a tort case in Brooklyn State Supreme Court. From that date forward until January 2009, the law firm continued to perform legal services for Boymelgreen, court papers say. While bills were paid for years, some bills from 2006 on were not paid, even as Boymelgreen and Africa Israel did not dispute that the money was owed, Satterlee Stephens alleges in its complaint.
Furthermore, Boymelgreen’s company told the law firm “on multiple occasions in 2009 and 2010 and in written communication in or about January 2009,” that it would pay the outstanding bills, the complaint says.