Lennox Miami Beach hotel exec sues father-in-law for ousting him: lawsuit

Diego Agnelli is seeking $6M, alleging the ouster was due to his pending divorce

TRD MIAMI /
Jul.July 10, 2020 08:45 AM
Lennox Miami Beach

Lennox Miami Beach

The recent ouster of a Lennox Miami Beach hotel executive is playing out like a Spanish telenovela in Miami federal court. According to a lawsuit filed Wednesday, the Art Deco property’s investor Juan Castellanos Bonillo abruptly fired his son-in-law Diego Agnelli for splitting up with his daughter.

Agnelli served as president of the hotel’s holding company, Lennox Miami Corp., for 10 years until earlier this month, according to his complaint. He is seeking to enforce a clause in his employment agreement requiring Lennox Miami to pay him $6 million for terminating him without cause.

Lennox Miami Beach, formerly called the Peter Miller Hotel before it was redeveloped and rebranded, is a 119-room property at 1900 Collins Avenue in South Beach.

A lawyer for Lennox Miami declined comment. Castellanos Bonillo, an Argentinian real estate investor, could not be reached for comment.

In an emailed statement, Agnelli’s attorneys Jesus Cuza and Brian Koch said: “Our intent is to ensure that justice prevails and that Mr. Agnelli’s legal rights are respected and enforced in court. Mr. Agnelli built a spectacular hotel in South Florida and the unlawful actions against him cannot and will not be overlooked, much less tolerated.”

Agnelli alleges Castellanos Bonillo began attempting to remove him as president on June 22 when he was on vacation out-of-state with his children. As part of his alleged plot, Castellanos Bonillo locked Agnelli out of the hotel, denying him access to his personal property, and seizing control of the premises, the lawsuit claims. The father-in-law then orchestrated Agnell’s firing on Wednesday to “punish, harass and bully” him, according to the suit.

The divorce proceedings are pending in Miami-Dade family court and the lawsuit states the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Agnelli claims Castellanos Bonillo did not have standing or authority to remove Agnelli and has not taken steps that are consistent with Lennox’s bylaws and other corporate documents. The holding company is 75 percent owned by an overseas entity called Invernorth Limited, while Agnelli and his estranged wife each own 12.5 percent, according to the complaint.

Agnelli claims his father-in-law provided investment capital for the Lennox Miami Beach hotel while he put in sweat equity in remodeling and rebranding the 1930s property into an “upscale, sophisticated and uniquely modern” hotel.

“These were all details planned and executed by Agnelli, whose passion and tireless work for the hotels is the moving force behind the Lennox brand’s success,” the lawsuit states. “Agnelli has also helped successfully build up two Lennox-branded hotels in Argentina.”

In addition to running the hotel’s day-to-day operations, Agnelli was “also indispensable in establishing Lennox’s elite position in the hotel market,” according to the lawsuit. For instance, because of Agnelli, the Lennox Miami Beach was the headquarters for the Paraiso Miami Beach Swim Week show and secured a high-end buyout group for the 2020 Super Bowl in Miami, which generated half a million dollars in revenue for the hotel in the span of four days, the lawsuit claims.

On June 24, while Agnelli was still president, Lennox Miami filed a separate lawsuit in Miami federal court against Castellanos Bonillo, alleging he stormed into the hotel’s office with attorneys, police officers and others in the presence of employees and guests. That complaint alleges Castellanos Bonillo, without authorization and authority, froze Lennox’s bank accounts and began exercising absolute dominion and control over the holding company.

Luis Salazar, the attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Lennox Miami, said he could not comment on whether the complaint will be withdrawn now that Agnelli is no longer involved with the holding company.


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