The Real Deal New York

Extell, Barnett face suit from former exec

May 04, 2011 05:54PM
By David Jones

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Extell’s Gary Barnett, Pamela Samuels, now of Trio Partners, and Carnegie57

Extell Development, one of the city’s biggest real estate firms, is scheduled for a court
hearing next Tuesday, amid allegations that the company’s president, Gary Barnett, fired one
of his top executives, Pamela Samuels, and later refused to pay her millions of dollars because he claimed none of the 17 projects in which she held equity were profitable.

Samuels, in a suit filed late February in New York State Supreme Court, alleged that
Extell and Barnett committed fraud, unjust enrichment and breach of contract and she
also demanded they pay her remaining salary of $1.1 million. Lawyers for Extell filed
a motion Monday demanding the case go to arbitration and scheduling a May 10 court
hearing.

Samuels, a 15-year real estate veteran, alleges Barnett spent nearly seven years
recruiting her from her previous employers, and eventually promoted her to managing
director in charge of several top projects ranging from Hudson Yards and Riverside
developments to Carnegie 57, with repeated praise about her performance.

Samuels, who is co-founder and principal at development company Trio Partners, alleges Barnett called her into a meeting in December 2009 and while complimenting her performance on the job, fired her and cut off her salary, benefits and health insurance.

“Barnett further informed Ms. Samuels that she would never see any money from the
profit interests she had been awarded, because according to him, they were worthless,”
Pryor Cashman chairman Gideon Cashman and associate attorney Josh Bernstein wrote
in the complaint. “Indeed, Barnett informed Ms. Samuels that none of the 17 projects had
earned or would earn any profit at all.”

Extell officials, including Barnett, declined to comment through a spokesperson, while
lawyers for Extell did not return calls seeking comment.

Samuels was widely considered one of Extell’s most seasoned executives. According
to her biography, which is still live on the Extell website, she previously served as
managing director and a principal at the Clarett Group, a rival development firm and
previously worked as associate director of planning at Rockrose Development.

Samuels is a former adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of
Architecture and developed more than $4 billion worth of projects for Extell and was
named one of the top 50 women in real estate by the Association of Real Estate Women,
her lawsuit notes.

Samuels, in the complaint, says she was hired by Extell as senior vice president of
development in January 2006, reporting directly to Barnett. She was promised, in writing,
a bonus award of at least .5 percent in nine different projects with an aggregate value of
$4.65 million to $8 million, in April 2006.

Samuels says that while she worked at Extell the firm pre-sold the hotel portion of
Carnegie57, a 74-story luxury hotel and condo and the city’s tallest residential building,
for $375 million, adding that Extell awarded her bonuses for several additional projects in
September 2007.

By 2008, the firm had $2 billion in gross sales, according to her complaint, and she was
later promoted to managing director in June 2009, when her initial contract had expired,
but she was under an extension period.

“There never was one scintilla of criticism of her,” Cashman told The Real Deal. “It is
our understanding of her that she delivered the goods.”

Samuels alleges, in the complaint, that after returning from a business trip with Barnett
in December 2009, she was summoned to Barnett’s office and fired without warning.
She had not been given any complaints about her performance and, in fact, had been
complimented. She alleges that she was told she would get no profit-sharing, no health
insurance or benefits, except for a standard two-week severance package, which Samuels
said she was never paid.

Samuels said that Barnett told her the projects she worked on were worthless and would
not be paid a bonus for any of them. She says she demanded an accounting to prove the
claim, but it was never provided.

Samuels alleges that Barnett told her in a later meeting after she demanded an accounting
that he would have paid her $200,000 if she had been a “good girl,” then later changed
his mind and said he might give her several apartments as compensation. Finally he
demanded that she apologize to him, the complaint states.

By November 2010, Extell sent Samuels a letter stating that all performance bonus
programs had been terminated, according to the complaint. Lawyers allege, in the
complaint, that Extell did not keep records of the performance bonuses for executives on
its books and starting in December 2009, tried to terminate awards for other executives as
well.

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