UPDATED, May 5, 2022, 3:00 p.m.: From the second floor VIP lounge of E11even nightclub in downtown Miami, Marc Roberts gazed down at a parking lot he bought in the city’s Park West neighborhood. It was late in the afternoon on a recent Thursday, hours before hordes of YOLO partygoers were set to pack Roberts’ lucrative nightlife venue for an early start to the weekend.
“I don’t do any other real estate business except here in this neighborhood,” Roberts said. “There is enough money [to be made] here for me and my family. Thank God, this club does great.”
For more than two decades, Roberts, 62, has bobbed and weaved through South Florida’s real estate world like the big-name boxers he used to represent. In the late 1980s and 1990s, he made his bones as a sports agent and manager whose client roster included then-heavyweight champs Ray Mercer and Shannon Briggs.
In the early 2000s, he left the sports arena and stepped into the real estate ring by doing condo conversions in three states and teaming up with Miami Worldcenter master developer Arthur Falcone to assemble more than 25 acres for the massive $4 billion mixed-use project that today features condos, apartments, office and retail.
However, the 2008 real estate and stock market crash nearly knocked Roberts out of contention. The next three years were marred by a nasty breakup with a longtime mentor and friend whose credit he used to finance close to $100 million in loans used for real estate investment projects, including land purchases tied to Miami Worldcenter, according to court records.
In 2009, Harvey Silverman, a Wall Street trader, filed lawsuits that were later dismissed in Roberts’ favor in Palm Beach Circuit Court and New York federal courts that accused Roberts of embezzlement and other chicanery. Roberts countersued Silverman in Miami federal court for leaving him holding the bag on the $100 million in debt they owed several banks.
“2008, 2009 and 2010 were very stressful,” Roberts said. “I lost $50 million in equity and owed the banks $100 million. I went through a lot of sleepless nights.”
Today, Roberts with his business partner, Miami Beach real estate investor Michael Simkins, co-owns 3.5 acres in Park West, including the E11even site. He also owns other downtown Miami properties primed for redevelopment with Los Angeles real estate investor Romie Chaudhari and Titan Capital’s Ira Saferstein.
Since opening in 2014, E11even has become a global brand in the world of late-night entertainment. The baseball hats featuring the nightclub’s distinctive logo have become ubiquitous throughout South Florida and other party spots around the country.
“We have probably sold $10 million worth of hats,” Roberts said. “The cash flow is great and amazing but if you can build a big brand, you can build a billion-dollar business.”
That’s why Roberts and his partners are betting that deep-pocketed condo buyers want to live and breathe the E11even brand. These days, Roberts is posing for photos with celebrities buying units at E11even Hotel & Residences and E11even Residences Beyond, a pair of 65-story towers that will rise across the street from the nightclub. The projects are a joint venture between Roberts, Simkins and Kevin Maloney’s Property Markets Group.
The condo-hotel is already fully sold out, while the second condominium is roughly 75 percent sold out, Roberts and PMG principal Ryan Shear said.
“This neighborhood is where all the big boys play,” Roberts said. “To go up 60, 70 stories, you have to have a lot of money. This is going to be a 24-hour district like Times Square. That’s why I stay in this area where I know and believe in.”
Drunk on Kool-Aid
Silverman met Roberts in the late 1980s when Roberts was a boxing promoter and manager, according to four lawsuits The Real Deal reviewed for this story. At the time, Silverman, a trader with Spear, Leeds & Kellogg, invested $60,000 in Roberts’ sports agency, Triple Threat Enterprises. Silverman also helped Roberts get a $250,000 unsecured line of credit that he partially used to cover personal expenses. When Triple Threat went public, Roberts paid off the credit line and Silverman made a profit from his investment, court records state.
By 1995, the pair’s friendship blossomed into a “father-son relationship” and Silverman provided Roberts with a credit line of $600,000 when he started another sports agency, Worldwide Entertainment and Sports. When the company went public, Silverman received stock as consideration for the $600,000.
In 2000, Roberts left the sports representation business and got into real estate investing. He again partnered with Silverman, who used his creditworthiness to obtain bank loans that were going to be used to purchase land Roberts identified and for which he cut deals. Both men were 50/50 partners even though Roberts did not put in any money and Silverman’s credit financed the debt, court records show.
Between 2000 and 2007, the partnership flourished as Roberts teamed up with Falcone to assemble the land for Miami Worldcenter. At the same time, Roberts also had a company called Sunvest that was converting apartment buildings to condominiums and flipping units to individual buyers. Sunvest bought properties in Florida, Arizona and Nevada, according to court records.
“We converted more than 10,000 units,” Roberts said. “My partners and I made $40 million. I didn’t know 2008 was going to interrupt the party.”
In hindsight, he should have seen the crash coming, Roberts admitted.
“I was getting guys with no income verification buying two, three condos from me,” he said. “I had Countrywide and Wells Fargo in my office. There would be lines of buyers out the door. They would get loans in 30 days. Looking back, I am an idiot for drinking the Kool-Aid.”
The crash also spelled the end of Roberts’ relationship with Silverman. According to a 2009 federal lawsuit in Miami that Roberts filed, Silverman allegedly confided that he would not be able to live up to his promises because his net worth went from more than $300 million to “probably insolvent” due to losses from the stock market collapse. Roberts alleged that Silverman told him that he suffered significant losses and that he would have to pull out of their partnership. As a result, Roberts faced lawsuits by every bank, including Deutsche Bank and Citigroup, that had provided them with credit lines totaling $100 million. Those lawsuits were also resolved in Roberts’ favor.
Also in 2009, Falcone left Roberts and his ownership entities with only 1 percent share of the Miami Worldcenter land assemblage, according to sources familiar with their dealings.
“Art and I did a lot of restructuring,” Roberts said. “The moral of the story is not to be saddled with debt. You learn your lessons and pick yourself up.”
Falcone declined to comment for this story.
But Roberts still had to contend with Silverman, who slugged him with three lawsuits the same year in Palm Beach Circuit Court and New York federal courts. Silverman accused Roberts of committing “persistent and flagrant acts of self-dealing, gross and willful mismanagement, including the steady embezzlement of millions of dollars in funds and financing intended for the development projects.”
The fallout from the Silverman lawsuits and foreclosure actions against Roberts led to a string of negative press. A 2009 Forbes story with the headline, “Down and Out in Miami,” summed up the former partners’ troubles as “another indication of the kind of reckless commercial real estate lending that might be lurking on the balance sheets of big banks.”
In his lawsuits, Silverman alleged Roberts raised credit lines at the banks without his knowledge and forged signatures, despite Roberts having a legitimate power of attorney, allegedly diverting some of the cash to “support his lavish and excessive lifestyle.” Silverman claimed Roberts allegedly used partnership funds to buy homes, a Hawaii honeymoon and a Bentley.
In his lawsuit, Roberts countered that Silverman was fully aware that he was withdrawing money from the joint venture for personal expenses. He also denied embezzling any funds and forging signatures, the lawsuit states.
Roberts filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2010, but two years later he withdrew his petition and the case was dismissed. At the time, he listed liabilities of $266 million and assets of $3.3 million.
Two of the lawsuits were dismissed administratively due to lack of action by either party, court records show. A lawsuit Silverman filed against Roberts and one of the financial institutions, First Bank, was dismissed in 2011 after all parties agreed to drop the litigation. And a Silverman lawsuit contesting Roberts’ bankruptcy was dismissed as a result of the bankruptcy case’s dismissal.
Silverman lost a series of New York state civil cases with different banks and was responsible for repayment well north of $45 million, court records show. Various bank officers submitted court affidavits stating Silverman personally authorized Roberts to act on Silverman’s behalf, including withdrawing money from credit lines, and that they witnessed Silverman sign bank documents and verified his signature with his driver’s license. A 2010 court order in favor of Wachovia Bank states Silverman made unsubstantiated allegations against Roberts.
When reached by phone, Silverman, now 81, said he didn’t want to rehash his dealings with Roberts.
“It was about two people who were supposedly fruitful, good and honest with each other,” he said. “It didn’t work out that way. Our association has been over for many years and it is something I would like to forget. I don’t really care what he does.”
Off the mat
By 2011, Roberts found a compatriot who shares his vision for future redevelopment in downtown Miami’s Park West, a neighborhood populated by gritty industrial warehouses that is the city’s only designated 24-hour nightlife district.
Roberts partnered with Simkins, president of Miami Beach–based real estate firm Innovate Development Group, to buy up 4.5 acres in Park West, including the land where E11even was built, for a combined $19.5 million during a three-year span. The duo also own an additional 3 acres in Park West. Records show Roberts also bought a 6,250-square-foot nightclub space at 60 Northeast 11th Street for $800,000 during the same time period.
The pair met in 2012 when he and his brother, Ronald Simkins, were eyeing new investment opportunities in downtown Miami, Simkins said. By then, Miami Worldcenter was back on track and Wynwood, the trendy arts neighborhood currently going through a development boom, was starting to gentrify, he recalled. Sandwiched between both, Simkins saw development potential in Park West.
He was aware of Roberts’ financial troubles and the legal tussles with Silverman. “I heard anecdotally about what happened with Harvey and I know Marc was dealing with it,” Simkins said. “But it never impacted me. After spending time with Marc, I quickly understood what a great person he is, what a great network he has and what a hard worker he is.”
He and Simkins bought the E11even property from the family of Jack Galardi, a smut kingpin who owned more than 50 adult cabarets across the country and who died shortly before the deal closed in December of 2012, Roberts said. At the time, the property was home to a one-story building that housed the Galardi-owned Gold Rush strip club. The transaction included Gold Rush’s operations, which came with a 24-hour liquor license, Roberts explained.
“Within a week of buying the place, I met with all the big-strip club owners,” Roberts said. “I met the owner of Scores, the owner of Hustler, the owner of Rick’s Cabaret. The first thing they all asked me, ‘How did you get it under contract? Jack promised he was going to sell it to me.’”
The strip club owners also offered similar terms to let them run Gold Rush involving $5 million in renovations, about $100,000 in monthly rent and a 50 percent share of the profits, Roberts claimed. “They came fast and furious,” he said. “One after the other, telling us the same thing. Finally me and Simkins looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s do this ourselves. There’s more cash flow than we thought.’”
After less than a year of operating Gold Rush, the duo decided to tear the building down and replace it with E11even, a three-story party palace at 29 Northeast 11th Street. They brought in a third partner, Dennis DeGori, to run the venue as a hybrid nightclub and adult cabaret. The rooftop terrace is currently being remodeled into a new restaurant. There’s even a little Cirque du Soleil flair featuring performances by aerialists, acrobats and contortionists. And for big-money spenders looking for a little more privacy, E11even offers VIP “whale rooms” with reservations costing several thousand dollars.
“People thought we were nuts,” Roberts said. “And knock on wood, E11even is the most profitable nightclub per square foot in the world, for sure.”
No sleep, no problem
Roberts’ progression from a land-assembling nightclub mogul to condo developer kicked off over drinks at E11even with PMG’s Ryan Shear. “One night when I was here, someone came up to me and said that Ryan wants to say hello,” Roberts said. “He came over to my table and we started talking.”
Shear said the E11even encounter evolved into serious discussions over several meetings with Roberts and Simkins to build a branded tower. Across South Florida, luxury brands such as Fendi, Armani, Bentley, Bulgari and Porsche have partnered with local developers for brand-name condominiums that have been built or under construction in the last decade.
“Marc is a fun guy and he doesn’t sleep,” Shear said. “Like all good relationships, it has evolved. We started talking about doing a deal together and it went from there.”
In January, PMG, Roberts and Simkins unveiled plans for E11even Hotel & Residences, a 375-unit tower at 20 Northeast 11th Street. That’s the parking lot that Roberts and Simkins paid $6 million for in 2013, records show. Designed by Sieger Suarez, the proposed project’s units will range from studios to two-bedrooms, plus a penthouse collection, all fully furnished.
A virtual metaverse tour by ArX Solutions takes prospective buyers through the multi-level E11even Day Club and pool. It’s a Las Vega–style amenity spanning 20,000 square feet and featuring cabanas, temperature controlled plunge pools and a 2,200-square-foot party pool. A DJ spins music from a two-story head sculpture. The building will also have a private members’ club, a wellness center and sports lounge.
In November, after selling out the first tower, the partnership announced plans for E11even Residences Beyond, a 461-unit condominium on the same block. The buildings will connect via a sky bridge and a path on the ground level behind the properties, according to plans. Units in both buildings start in the $300,000s. Social media influencers Jake and Logan Paul are each buying penthouses in the second tower, while WNBA player Candace Parker, ESPN co-host Sage Steele and MMA fighter Luke Rockhold are purchasing units in the first building.
“We decided to risk a couple of million bucks doing marketing and sales,” Roberts said. “Right from the start, we sold units like hotcakes. I’ve probably sold 300 directly and indirectly. Almost every athlete is mine. I could tell you some other big names who have bought, but they have not allowed me to use their names.”
Shear said that he expected it would take a year to sell out E11even Hotel & Residences, but only 10 units in the second tower remain. “Both towers are essentially sold out and it took half the time frame,” he said.
Roberts isn’t done reimagining Park West. In 2018, he teamed up with L.A.-based investor Chaudhari to buy a warehouse at 90 Northeast 11th Street where they want to open the first medical-marijuana dispensary in Miami. Roberts and Chaudhari have a pending lawsuit against the city because Miami officials refuse to issue them a permit by claiming cannabis retail stores are prohibited by federal law even though medical marijuana is legal in Florida.
In another deal, Roberts partnered with Titan Capital’s Saferstein to buy a one-acre site within the Miami Worldcenter footprint for $26.7 million in 2020. The purchase brought Roberts full circle to where he began his real estate hustle.
Now 14 years removed from the crash, Roberts said he’s not afraid of bottoming out again. He’s a big believer in cryptocurrencies, which are a volatile investment vehicle. E11even the nightclub and the E11even real estate projects accept payment in digital coins that are immediately converted to fiat money, Roberts noted.
“For one, there are no mortgages [encumbering the land,]” Roberts said. “And we have a nice cash flow [at E11even]. The club could make one-fifth of what it is making now and I will still be able to carry the land. If I gotta go through a cycle, I can do it.”
Like a grizzled prizefighter entering the 12th round, Roberts carries the scars of the financial crisis, but isn’t done being a contender.
“It’s been a rough 20 years,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of good luck.”
Corrections: An address of a project site, the number of acres co-owned by Roberts and Simkins and the outcome of one of the lawsuits were misstated in a previous version of this story.