CA Ventures, former exec settle $6M suit as industrial platform trades hands

Chicago-based development firm working through legal woes, including owing Blackstone $250K for Willis Tower rent

CA Ventures Settles $6M Lawsuit with Former CIO
CA Ventures' Tom Scott, UpCampus Properties's Nishant Bakaya and CA Ventures' Michael Podboy with Willis Tower (LinkedIn, Getty)

CA Ventures has tackled one of its legal problems just as a new one popped up — this time with the Blackstone affiliate that owns the Willis Tower.

The Chicago-based development firm last week agreed to settle a lawsuit filed against it last year by its former Chief Investment Officer Nishant Bakaya, who claimed he was owed $6 million by the company as part of an exit package struck when he left in 2021, public records show.

The dispute between Bakaya and various CA Ventures affiliates — one of several lawsuits recently brought against the firm by investors, lenders and former employees — temporarily held up the transition of the development company’s industrial platform Centris into the management of New York-based investors Davidson Kempner and Monarch Alternative.

Earlier this year, a judge in the Bakaya suit issued a temporary restraining order preventing the Centris takeover by Davidson and Monarch from closing. With the suit’s settlement, the Centris transition can be completed, the court ruled. The settlement wasn’t made fully public, but it appears from a judge’s order to require payments from the former CA Ventures industrial arm and the firm’s other business lines to Bakaya. Centris, which will continue to be run by Michael Podboy, has been rebranded as Outrigger Industrial. It will be funded by Davidson and Monarch, both of which had originally been committed to the platform alongside CA Ventures.

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While the settlement and CA Ventures offloading its Centris obligations cleared up some of its legal woes, it has several ongoing problems to address, including a lawsuit filed last month by the Blackstone affiliate that owns Chicago’s tallest building, the 108-story Willis Tower, as well as property-level issues such as delinquencies on $40 million in North Side multifamily loans.

An attorney for Bakaya declined to comment, other than to say the settlement was reached “amicably,” and an attorney for CA Ventures didn’t return a request for comment. Blackstone declined to comment, and Outrigger representatives couldn’t be reached.

The Willis Tower landlord accused CA Ventures affiliates of falling behind on $250,000 in rent for a 35th-floor office space, spanning 20,000 square feet, that it leased for a little over $67,000 per month starting in 2022. The tenant stopped paying the monthly fee in June of last year, and in December proposed a payment plan to make up the late rent with five monthly payments that would end in July 2024, but it failed to make those payments, Blackstone claims.

After answering the Blackstone complaint, CA Ventures is continuing to work through the effects of the real estate downturn that have forced it into courtrooms in order to reposition the company as a buyer of real estate while there’s still opportunities to acquire distressed assets near the bottom of the market, a person familiar with the company’s plans said.

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