Maverick Real Estate Partners is raising suspicions about the status of purportedly missing Chinese billionaire Whitney Duan — the latest development in the foreclosure saga surrounding condo unit 72A at 432 Park Avenue.
At issue is whether Duan, who purchased the unit for $30 million in 2016 but has not spoken publicly since being detained by Chinese authorities three years ago, legitimately claimed financial hardship under New York’s Covid-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act in September.
Maverick purchased Duan’s $13.75 million mortgage on the unit, which she personally guaranteed, from China CITIC Bank in May of last year and initiated the foreclosure proceeding in July.
Maverick, which has a reputation for aggressively foreclosing on distressed debt, argued last month in court proceedings that the circumstances around Duan’s declaration are fishy — for reasons including the simple fact that billionaires tend not to suffer financial hardships.
“It is simply incredible that [Duan], owner of a condominium on Billionaire’s Row in Manhattan that was acquired for a reported Thirty Million Dollars…is suffering ‘hardship’ due to Covid-19,” an attorney for Maverick told the court. “It is unclear how [Duan] could claim any ‘hardship’ at all.”
A representative of Duan, Yiping Guo, testified in an affidavit that the 432 Park unit began losing monthly rental income of $70,000 in August 2020.
In what Maverick called a “remarkable coincidence,” Guo declared Duan’s Covid-related financial hardship, which activated foreclosure protections, on the same day that Duan, from her residence at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beijing, allegedly transferred legal authority over the unit to Guo.
“If the Chinese government has indeed released [Duan], the obvious question arises: why did she not simply sign the hardship declaration herself, along with the other papers?” a lawyer for Maverick asked the court in December.
An attorney for Duan at the law firm Wachtel Missry testified in an affidavit that he personally witnessed Duan sign the documents transferring authority to Guo in September. Duan, who vanished in 2018, apparently resurfaced briefly that same month to urge her ex-husband, Desmond Shum, to refrain from publishing a book about her disappearance. Shum implied in an NPR interview that Duan’s request was made under duress.
Meanwhile, some of Duan’s artwork reportedly sold for millions of dollars last month.
Attorneys for Maverick declined to comment on the record. Yiping Guo could not be reached.