Kassin Sabbagh sues Lightstone over Beekman Tower

Developer was in contract to buy the property, then accepted a breakup offer, broker claims
By Ariel Stulberg | November 23, 2015 08:30AM

UPDATED: 12:50, Nov. 23: Brokerage Kassin Sabbagh filed suit against Lightstone Group and CEO David Lichtenstein Thursday, accusing the developer of accepting a $3 million breakup fee to back out of its $127 million deal to buy Beekman Tower from Silverstein Properties, scuttling the deal “intentionally and in bad faith,” and depriving the broker of what it says is its rightful 0.5 percent commission.

Kassin’s complaint alleges that it was tapped to represent Lightstone in its purchase of the 170-unit building, located at 3 Mitchell Place, from then-owner Silverstein.

Then, Silverstein offered Lightstone the breakup fee, which Lightstone allegedly accepted “intentionally and in bad faith” to “line its own pockets,” according to the complaint, in exchange for agreeing to void the contract.

In July, Silverstein sold the building to elusive Brooklyn-based developer Chaim Miller and an unnamed foreign investor for $138 million.

Miller had previously been in contract to buy the building from Silverstein, but negotiations had broken down and Silverstein had taken Miller to court, saying he’d breached the terms of the sale and owed an additional $8 million security deposit. That situation was resolved just prior to the final sale.

Midtown-based Kassin claimed $635,000 in damages, the value of the commission, plus interest and attorneys’ fees.

Claude Castro, a partner at Clade Castro & Associates, who has litigated many broker lawsuits, and who examined the complaint, called it “a tough claim.”

Castro, pointed to the commission agreement, which was submitted into evidence. It stipulated that “In the event the contract is terminated, or the matter does not close for any other reason, no Commission shall be due to the Broker.”

“That’s pretty strong in terms of being against the broker,” Castro, who is not involved in the suit, said. “I don’t see that because someone can make money it’s bad faith.”

Kassin’s attorney Stephen Meister defended the suit’s merits in a statement, saying, “NY law is clear:  a party to a contract cannot prevent its performance.  That’s what Lichtenstein did to the broker he hired — getting millions in the process — and why my client will prevail.”

A statement from Kassin’s attorney was added.