Breaking up is hard to do

From Consolo and Aquino to Silverstein and Mendik, a look at some of the industry’s big splits over the decades

Jul.July 01, 2016 11:30 AM
Joseph Aquino and Faith Hope Consolo

Joseph Aquino and Faith Hope Consolo

He was the Desi to her Lucy, but the longtime partnership between retail maven Faith Hope Consolo TRData LogoTINY and her longtime consigliere Joseph Aquino came to a messy head last month when he accused her of spending his commissions on lavish beauty and fashion expenses.

But Faith and Joe aren’t the first real estate team to part ways — nor are they the most high profile. And they are certainly not going to be the last given the high-stakes, take-no-prisoners nature of the New York City real estate world. This month, The Real Deal looked at the Consolo-Aquino split and at some of the industry’s other big break-ups over the decades.

2016: Faith Hope Consolo and Joseph Aquino

The professional love affair ended in March when Aquino filed suit against Douglas Elliman, where the duo worked together since 2004. In the suit, he alleged that Consolo’s over-the-top spending was eating into his commissions and that Elliman had improperly deducted over $1 million of his commissions to pay for his boss’ spa treatments, cashmere sweaters, beauty supplies and $100-a-day makeup sessions. The firm terminated him after he filed the suit. Then last month, Aquino amended the complaint to name Consolo as a defendant, claiming she had submitted false “split sheets” to the firm on deals they’d done together. The two had been working together since 1989 when they were at commercial brokerage Garrick-Aug and, until recently, regularly hobnobbed together at industry events. Neither returned calls for comment and it’s unclear if Aquino has landed elsewhere — or if Consolo has found a new sidekick.

From left, brothers Henry, Frederick and K. Thomas Elghanayan

From left, brothers Henry, Frederick and K. Thomas Elghanayan

The Elghanayan brothers: 2009

Henry, Frederick and K. Thomas Elghanayan famously split their company Rockrose in 2009 after differences emerged over a succession plan. Henry wanted his son Justin to take over the family’s real estate empire after his death and worried that with several other potential cousins in the running choosing a future successor might (at some point) become contentious. Henry took the company name and Justin has since been appointed firm president. The two other brothers formed the mega real estate firm TF Cornerstone. At the time of the split, TRD reported that Rockrose owned 8,000 New York City apartments, nine development sites and nine office buildings. In the end, they divvied up their properties through a coin toss. The winner of the toss got to pick the first property. “There’s some tension, but if you think of all the divisions that have happened in the real estate industry, this was a rather smooth one,” Henry previously told TRD.

Gary Barnett, Kevin Maloney and Ziel Feldman: Late 1990s

Today, Extell’s Gary Barnett, Property Markets Group’s Kevin Maloney and HFZ Capital’s Ziel Feldman are among Manhattan’s most active developers. But back in the 1990s, when they were starting out, they were all working at PMG under one roof.  In 1994, in one of their first big NYC deals, the trio bought the 200-plus-unit Belnord rental building on the Upper West Side for the bargain-basement price of $15 million.  In 2013, Feldman told TRD that he was introduced to Barnett through a family member.  “He lived in Belgium and was in the diamond business with his wife’s family. He wanted to bring investors to New York in the early 1990s,” Feldman said.  But the dream team split in the late 1990s when Barnett went out on his own — and Feldman followed some years after. For his part, Maloney has kept a sense of humor about the whole thing. “Ziel is a pain in the ass, I want you to print that,” he joked to Real Estate Weekly in 2014.  The trio is on good terms these days — and are all building mega projects in Manhattan.

Larry-Silverstein-2Larry Silverstein and Bernard Mendik: Early 1980s

A longtime partnership between World Trade Center developer Larry Silverstein and his brother-in-law Bernie Mendik hit the skids in the late 1970s and early 1980s, after Mendik divorced Silverstein’s sister Annette. The duo had been active New York City real estate buyers since 1957, acquiring properties such as 711 Fifth Avenue from Columbia Pictures for $11.5 million in 1977, only to resell it to Coca-Cola for $57.6 million in 1984. The men blamed the split on the divorce, but insiders were quoted at the time saying the two were not on the same page about the market. Silverstein reportedly wanted to focus on new construction, while Mendik wanted to buy existing buildings. They split their business interests around the turn of the decade — and both went on to achieve legendary industry status. Silverstein, of course, eventually took over the World Trade Center site (through a ground lease in 2001 shortly before the terrorist attacks). Mendik — who started his own eponymous company and later folded his share of it into Vornado Realty Trust — became both co-chairman of the mega REIT and served as chairman of the Real Estate Board of New York from 1982 until his death in 2001.

Alexander DiLorenzo III and Sol Goldman: 1970s

In the 1970s, the notoriously erratic real estate scion Alexander DiLorenzo III and shadowy magnate Sol Goldman came to blows over a $600 million New York City real estate empire. The portfolio — which included more than 500 office, retail and residential properties — was built by Goldman and DiLorenzo’s father. But when the elder DiLorenzo died in 1975 and left his portion of the properties to his children, Goldman did not want the younger DiLorenzo, who had no real estate training, managing the portfolio. DiLorenzo sued, demanding the portfolio be split. Like the Elghanayan empire, the properties were eventually divided up in what the New York Times equated to a series of coin flips. DiLorenzo ended up with 147 properties, which he eventually squandered before cutting a deal to sell the dregs to Apollo Real Estate Advisors in the 1990s. Goldman died in the 1980s, but his estate remains one of the largest New York real estate owners today.

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