Real estate investor Jack Terzi notched two major victories in his bid to take control of the vacant Financial District landmark 23 Wall Street.
On Wednesday, a Manhattan judge partially denied a motion from the building’s current owner, China Sonangol, to dismiss Terzi’s lawsuit. Meanwhile, gym operator Blink Fitness has signed a 20,000-square-foot, 20-year lease for the building’s basement.
Terzi, who heads the real estate investment firm JTRE Holdings, signed a contract to buy the commercial property on the corner of Wall and Broad Streets for $140 million in August 2016. But the deal has yet to close.
In December 2017 Terzi sued China Sonangol, alleging that the Singapore-based company did not cooperate with an escrow agent and refused to prove it had no ties to Chinese/Angolan investor Sam Pa, who is under sanctions from the U.S. Treasury. Terzi wants to force the sale to go through or, alternatively, receive $250 million in damages, according to the complaint.
China Sonangol filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, and on Wednesday a judge granted that motion for three out of the six causes of action in Terzi’s suit, court records show. But the judge declined to dismiss two key causes: Terzi’s claim that he had a valid sales contract with China Sonangol, and that this contract was breached.
Terzi declined to comment. An attorney representing China Sonangol did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Blink Fitness’ lease is contingent on Terzi closing on the property. “There are certain neighborhoods that we’ve been trying to get into,” said Blink’s CEO Todd Magazine. The company, which has the same ownership as Equinox, has a penchant for historic buildings. For example, it opened a gym in the Brooklyn Lyceum in Park Slope.
China Sonangol bought the property at 23 Wall Street, which includes the former JP Morgan building and space in neighboring 15 Broad Street and 33 Wall Street and spans a combined 160,000 square feet, for $150 million from Lev Leviev’s Africa Israel USA in 2008. The property has sat vacant ever since.
Sam Pa, reportedly the driving force behind China Sonangol, was placed under U.S. sanctions in 2014 for his role in “undermining Zimbabwean democracy.” In 2015, the Chinese government arrested him. The Real Deal broke down China Sonangol’s tangled history, and its ties to Lev Leviev, in its April cover story.
Magazine said he is optimistic Terzi will close on the acquisition. “Jack’s a tenacious guy,” he said. “We have a lot of faith in him.”