Tourneau wants out of 510 Madison

By Adam Pincus | May 06, 2009 06:20PM

alternate textTourneau is trying to get out of its 10 Madison Avenue lease

Three months after an incoming tenant in Macklowe Properties’ fire-damaged 510 Madison Avenue announced it wanted to cancel its lease, a second tenant-to-be is trying to do the same.

International watch retailer Tourneau is trying to break a lease it signed last July for a 3,300-square-foot ground-floor retail location in the Macklowe building at the corner of Madison Avenue and 53rd Street, court papers say, which is still under construction.

The watch company, citing an obscure legal theory, wants to break the lease because it remains unclear when it would be able to move in to the building, and also wants its $148,683 deposit returned, a lawsuit filed April 13 in Manhattan State Supreme Court says.

The Tourneau suit follows an effort by investment firm Jay Goldman & Co. to break its lease on the 19th floor of the 30-story building, just two weeks after a fire broke out in the second floor February 9, causing minor damage.

Court papers submitted yesterday in Manhattan Supreme Court by Macklowe Properties attorney Richard Claman indicate Tourneau may be trying to get out of the lease because of general weakness in the economy.

In March, “Tourneau informed [Macklowe Properties] that it was undertaking a global review of all its leases, to try to escape or minimize its obligations, in view of the current economic conditions,” the court filing says.

Tourneau announced in July 2008 that it would relocate its oldest Manhattan location from the Omni Berkshire Place Hotel at 500 Madison Avenue at 52nd Street to the new store a block north.

The senior vice president and general counsel for Tourneau, Stuart Fisher, said the company would not comment on pending litigation.

When asked about the allegation by Macklowe Properties that the watch retailer was looking to minimize its lease obligations, he said, “At this point we have no plans to close any stores in Manhattan.”

A spokesman for Macklowe Properties declined to comment.

The general manager of the Omni Berkshire Place Hotel, Dan Piotrowski, said he was not aware that Tourneau was fighting the move to 510 Madison Avenue.

“The lease runs out at the end of the calendar year,” he said. He added that negotiations could be taking place at the hotel’s corporate office in Dallas that he was not aware of. The Dallas office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.