Warhol muse sues Jungreis over “secret” deal for LES portfolio

By Guelda Voien | October 25, 2013 11:40AM

Whatever happened to Baby Jane’s real estate portfolio? Well, one four-building package was sold in a sweetheart deal deceptively arranged by prolific broker Aaron Jungreis — or at least that’s what Jane Holzer, the real estate developer and star of scads of Andy Warhol films (often referred to as “Baby Jane”), claims in a new lawsuit.

Holzer hired Jungreis, president of Rosewood Realty, to sell her four rental apartment buildings — 60 Avenue B, 159-161 Stanton Street, 193-195 Stanton Street and 343 East 8th Street — in the East Village and on the Lower East Side. He brokered a $40.1 million deal with Manhattan landlord Croman Real Estate, helmed by Steven Croman, which closed this past December.

But Jungreis failed to shop the portfolio “as promised, to a wide net of local players with potential interest in the property,” and instead “steered” Holzer toward Croman, with whom he had an existing relationship and a “secret” deal to get financial compensation, she claimed in a suit filed earlier this month in New York State Supreme Court. The suit alleges breach of fiduciary duty and seeks unspecified damages.

“I adamantly deny the allegations and I intend to vigorously defend myself against this lawsuit,” he told The Real Deal via email. “The allegations are slanderous and I intend to protect my good name.” Jungreis also said the suit was “simply an effort to avoid the payment of a commission,” and that Holzer did not make these allegations at any point during the 10-month contract period for the transaction, bringing the matter up only when the commission came due.

Croman, who was not named as a defendant in the suit, did not respond to a request for comment.

But Raymond Hannigan of law firm Herrick Feinstein, who represents Holzer, said Jungreis failed to market the properties to the appropriate parties.

“We were approached by several large players on the Lower East Side, and they told us that Jungreis had never approached them,” he said. He declined to give the identities of the players, however, or elaborate on the alleged secret deal or what form the alleged compensation from Croman took.

But Jungreis is known for his less than conventional approach to brokerage, a tack that has landed him in the court room previously.

A 2008 deal led to two suits over commissions, with Debrah Lee Charatan and Georgia Malone of separate, eponymous firms accusing him of cutting them out of a $68 million deal for 13 multi-family properties on the far West Side, which he sold to the Orbach Group. He has also freely admitted to investing in deals he has brokered and to preferring to avoid co-broking.

He is currently not involved in any litigation other than with Holzer, however, he said.

The fraught deal has caused Holzer other difficulties.

In August, Croman sued her, alleging she threatened to rent out 18 empty rent-stabilized apartments in the buildings unless he paid her an additional $2.5 million. That suit has been resolved, sources said.

But this is not the former vixen’s first tangle with a real estate broker. Earlier this year, real estate broker Joanna Cutler sued Holzer for allegedly failing to pay her a $700,000 commission on the sale of Holzer’s $16 million Upper East Side townhouse.