The Sapir & Rosen feud: Theft and betrayal at a family real estate empire

Alex Sapir and Rotem Rosen’s yearslong battle escalated with Sapir’s $100M lawsuit against his former business partner and brother-in-law. Rosen fired back with a $60M suit of his own

TRD New York /
Jul.July 28, 2020 02:30 PM
Alex Sapir and Rotem Rosen (Getty)

Alex Sapir and Rotem Rosen (Getty)

Trust betrayed. Contracts breached. Family exploited. Relationship destroyed.

The bitter feud that has been playing out between two former real estate business partners and brothers-in-law, Alex Sapir and Rotem Rosen, has been a toxic divorce. It includes accusations of scheming, double-crossing and theft, and includes several members of their families.

The two men have been going at each other since 2017, when they mostly parted ways in a $75 million buyout deal. Rosen’s actual divorce last May from his wife — Alex’s sister — added fuel to the fire. A few months after that, Rosen’s $103 million lawsuit against the estate of the late Tamir Sapir — Alex’s father — fanned the flames.

Now, following a $100 million lawsuit that Sapir and his family firm brought last week against Rosen and his brother Omer — Sapir Organization’s general counsel until early 2019 — the inferno threatens to keep burning for years.

The Sapir lawsuit filed last week accuses the brothers of conspiring to steal documents and trade secrets from the family. The brothers used that proprietary information to make investments, the suit alleges, several of which mirrored ones Sapir Organization had made.

Rotem and Omer “have repaid our client’s trust with betrayal and mistaken its kindness for weakness,” Sapir’s lawyer, Terrence Oved, of Oved & Oved, said in a statement. The filing seeks “to hold the Rosens accountable for their many alleged misdeeds.”

It also claims Rosen took advantage of his marriage to Zina Sapir, to “insinuate himself into increasing control of the Sapir Organization” and reap huge profits “without contributing even $1 of his own money.”

Rosen’s attorney, Sheron Korpus of Kasowitz Benson Torres, called the complaint false. It was, he said, “a desperate attempt to distract from Rotem’s meritorious claims against the [Tamir] Sapir Estate, and Alex Sapir’s recent breaches of the contractual arrangements between him and Rotem.”

On Tuesday morning, Rosen filed another lawsuit against Alex Sapir. The federal suit alleges Sapir defaulted on a $60 million promissory note connected to the $75 million buyout in 2017 — of which $15 million was paid upfront while the remainder was to be paid over 15 years. The alleged default was caused by the mezzanine refinancing of an entity that owns properties at 260-261 Madison Avenue in New York, which guaranteed Sapir’s debt to Rosen.

“Instead of disclosing the facts behind the apparent refinancing, Sapir began a campaign of personal destruction against Rosen to distract from the publicity he knew would come when Rotem would seek to exercise his contractual rights,” the new complaint claims.

Oved called today’s filing “a meritless retaliatory action against Mr. Sapir to distract from the misconduct alleged against Rosen and his brother in the action recently filed against them in state court.”

Rosen’s $100 million lawsuit filed in August 2019 claims he saved Sapir’s real estate empire from ruin after the last financial crisis and he is due a fair share of those earnings. His success came despite Alex Sapir’s mismanagement of the family fortune, he alleged.

According to that suit, Rosen was paid $75 million for helping to restructure the Sapir Organization’s debt, including HSBC loans valued at $180 million. But he says he was not compensated for several other lucrative deals, such as the repositioning and selling of 50 Murray, 53 Park Place and 11 Madison in Manhattan, which SL Green bought for $2.6 billion in 2015.

Alex Sapir’s $100 million suit against Rosen comes about two months after shareholders approved his bid to take his real estate investment firm, Sapir Corp., private. The move was three years in the making for Alex Sapir, whose firm owns the 264-key NoMo Soho hotel in New York City as well as the 16-unit Arte condo project in Miami’s Surfside.

“Coattails”

Rosen joined the Sapir family firm after he married Zina Sapir in 2007. She later stepped away from her management role at the company to care for their newborn child. The complaint filed last week in State Supreme Court in New York alleges that Rosen “began an aggressive campaign to find himself a role within the Sapir Organization by currying favor with his brother-in-law, Alex,” in 2009, in order to “revive his failing career in the real estate industry.”

The suit alleges dubious circumstances surrounding Rosen’s departure from Africa Israel USA in 2008 — without going into detail — and claims that he was terminated from HFZ Capital a year later.

The brothers-in-law established a partnership entity known as ASRR —their initials — and Rosen brought on his brother Omer to serve as general counsel. Another Rosen brother, Tom, was hired to lead the firm’s development and acquisition department.

“As the complaint alleges, for over a decade, Rotem Rosen rode the Sapir Organization’s coattails, taking advantage of the Sapirs’ trust and generosity to siphon tens of millions of dollars, misappropriate proprietary information, and violate the contractual terms of his ouster from the Sapir family and its business,” according to Sapir’s attorney.

By early 2017, the relationship between the Rosens and the Sapirs had fractured. “As part of their concerted scheme to obtain total control of the Sapir Organization and convert its assets, the Rosens began systematically attempting to erase the Sapir brand and replace it with Rotem’s signature ‘RR’ brand,” the Sapir complaint alleges.

Roadmap

After “Alex finally had enough,” according to the suit, Sapir and Rotem began negotiating terms of a buyout. At that point, the suit alleges Omer Rosen was undermining the company’s interests, “sensing he would likely be asked to leave the Sapir Organization as well.”

During one week in June 2017, Omer sent more than 1,500 “confidential, proprietary and/or trade secret information” from his work account to his personal email then tried to cover it up by deleting the transmission from his sent folder, the suit alleges.

Omer’s alleged mass email transfers were discovered last year, after he left the country without notifying his boss, according to Sapir’s suit. After Alex Sapir was served with Rotem’s lawsuit, Omer was fired when he returned weeks later. The Sapir suit also claims Omer used his position as general counsel to give himself a $580,000 loan to buy a condo, with unusually favorable loan terms.

As part of Tuesday’s court filing, it alleges the transfer of documents by Omer Rosen was from businesses jointly owned with Alex Sapir, and was done with Sapir’s knowledge. “Rosen’s transactions owed nothing to any purported trade secrets obtained from Sapir, and Sapir’s accusation are based on fantasy,” according to the filing. It also alleges that “business associates of Rosen have received harassing communications concerning the dispute with Sapir.”

In a separate written statement, Omer said the Sapir lawsuit was “in bad faith, and with intent to defame my good name and injure me in my business and profession.” He added that Sapir provided “false facts” about him, and “will be held accountable for such actions.”

According to Sapir’s suit, the “massive library of documents” Omer took from his employers became “a roadmap to establish a business to directly compete with the Sapir Organization.” It named three specific deals that Rosen’s new firm MRR — a partnership with Indian billionaire Anand Mahindra — allegedly executed after Rosen’s split with Alex Sapir, by taking advantage of Sapir’s proprietary information. Rosen and Sapir were equal partners in ASRR before their split.

One such deal was the $30 million acquisition of a Miami development site in June 2018, “across the street” from an assemblage ASRR and partners had acquired for $33 million a year prior. The $160 million acquisition of the Lower East Side’s Hotel Indigo — just minutes from Nomo Soho — was another.

Rosen was also allegedly able to enter into a joint venture with an unnamed “large third-party real estate developer” in 2019 by taking advantage of Sapir documents related to a canceled venture with the same developer two years prior, according to the suit.

Meanwhile, other internal documents, concerning a “long-resolved dispute” between Alex and his aunt, Rozita Sapir, allegedly became ammunition for Rosen’s lawsuit against Tamir Sapir’s estate.

Sapir’s complaint called Rosen’s suit a “frivolous claim” meant to help “further enrich himself at the expense of the Sapir family, gain leverage in his divorce and create a platform to publicize confidential and/or disparaging information about the Sapir family.”

According to court documents, Sapir agreed in November to put $55 million into an escrow account to secure Rosen’s $103 million claim, and moved for summary judgment on the claim in January.

Contact Kevin Sun at [email protected].

 

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