The drama surrounding the 157-acre Mountain of Beverly Hills didn’t end when the land was sold in foreclosure for a fraction of its sky-high asking price.
Now, the interior minister of Kuwait has filed suit, claiming he was defrauded out of a $163 million investment in the property by its former owner.
Khaled Al-Sabah alleges that Victorino Noval — who owned the Mountain before it was seized in foreclosure — duped him into thinking he would get a 50 percent cut from his years-long investment in the property.
That would have meant a windfall for Al-Sabah had the Mountain sold anywhere near its $1 billion July 2018 asking price. Four months later, the ask was slashed to $650 million.
But Noval’s company, Secured Capital Partners, filed for bankruptcy in May and the property went back to its previous owner for $100,000 at a foreclosure auction.
Meanwhile, Noval used Al-Sabah’s money to finance a “lavish and extravagant lifestyle” replete with aircraft, boats, mansions, exotic dancers, gambling and limousine chauffeurs, according to the lawsuit filed last month in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Al-Sabah, who is seeking $488 million in compensatory damages, is charging fraud and deceit, breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation among the 16 counts in the suit.
Al-Sabah, whose lawyer said is a member of the Kuwaiti royal family, invested in the Mountain with family money, he told The Real Deal. The money was not tied to his official role representing the government, he said.
According to the lawsuit, Al-Sabah met Noval at the Montage Beverly Hills in 2010. Noval told Al-Sabah that for a $20 million investment, he would acquire a 50 percent stake in the Mountain, according to the complaint. Noval allegedly claimed he owned a 100 percent in the Mountain when his stake at the time was just 40 percent. The complaint paints a picture of Noval and his family members having strung along Al-Sabah for years, stating it needed yet more money to refurbish the property, which led to additional wire transfers.
Noval, who also runs a holding company called Tower Park Properties, bought the Mountain in 2004 with Atlanta developer Charles “Chip” Dickens. The Hughes Trust — the estate of Herbalife founder Mark Hughes — was the seller.
Three years ago, Secured Capital Partners acquired the land from Tower Park Properties through a title transfer.
Ronald Richards, a Beverly Hills-based attorney representing Noval, denied all allegations against his client. Noval,
Richards said his client, who pleaded guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion in 1998, did not recall dealing with Al-Sabah.
“I don’t recall that exact name, no,” Richards said in an interview. He added, “My client does business with people from all over the world.”
Al-Sabah’s lawyer of record is La Habra-based Michael Tusken. Bobby Samini, who said he is special counsel to Al-Sabah on the case, dismissed Richards’ claim that there’s no paper trail supporting the allegations.
There “will be no issue in proving Noval received the money from Al-Sabah.” Samini said. His Beverly Hills firm Samini Cohen Spanos has represented clients like former L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling and rapper T-Pain.
Al-Sabah sued after he heard about the foreclosure sale, Samini said. The property is now in the hands of the Hughes Trust, which repurchased the Mountain at a foreclosure auction in August following Secured Capital’s bankruptcy filing.