The Real Deal New York

Trevi Retail CEO forced out, sources say

Cause said to be embezzlement allegations
By Katherine Clarke | March 11, 2013 06:15PM

Retail investment mogul Rockie Gajwani has been placed on administrative leave as CEO of Trevi Retail Group, the firm he founded in 2011, an executive at the company confirmed to The Real Deal today. Though the reason for his ouster is still unclear, several people familiar with the situation said it had to do with allegations that he embezzled money from a financial services firm subsidiary that acts as the company’s financial partner.

Johnny McCarthy, Trevi’s chief investment officer, declined to comment on the allegations of misconduct, saying that the issue is a “confidential personnel matter.”

Under Gajwani, Trevi has been one of the most active players in the New York City market in the last 18 months, spending more than $200 million on retail and mixed-use properties. A former Forest City Ratner executive, Gajwani was most recently the senior vice president of retail acquisitions at Vornado Realty Trust.

He was forced to take leave from Trevi last week, sources said, amidst suspicions that he had embezzled an unknown amount of funds from Principal Enterprise Capital, a subsidiary of the Iowa-based financial services firm Principal Financial Group. One source familiar with the situation estimated the total at $900,000 to $2 million, though the figure could not be independently confirmed.

Gajwani did not respond to multiple requests for comment at his Trevi phone number and email address; a number listed for his Darien, Conn., home was not in service. A spokesperson for Principal Financial, a publicly-traded financial services company, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sources said McCarthy would likely be Gajwani’s successor.

Gajwani was previously quoted as saying he hoped to develop Trevi’s portfolio to $1 billion in value within two years. Principal Enterprise was reportedly looking for returns of 6 percent a year on holdings with a lifespan of a minimum of 10 years.

Among Trevi’s recent acquisitions is a five-story building at 785 Madison Avenue, which it bought for $18 million, and a two-building Upper West Side rental package with 3,300 square feet of retail and a 27,000-square-foot ground floor space at 650 Sixth Avenue.