Family secrets: Inside the Damaghis’ South Florida buying spree
Great Neck family has a low-profile real estate side gig
South Florida has long been a magnet for New York real estate players. And when most New Yorkers make a move on the regional market, they do it in style: With lots of ballyhoo in hopes that even the smallest deals and projects become the talk of the town.
The Damaghis are not most New Yorkers.
The Great Neck family has amassed developable sites across South Florida. While some of its investments have surpassed those of New York’s real estate royalty, the family’s deals have remained clandestine.
“They have got some really phenomenal assets,” a source said. “But some people just want to keep it quiet.”
The Damaghis — made up of husband-and-wife Nasser and Shahnaz Damaghi and their children Nader, Kambiz and Babak Damaghi — aren’t full-time real estate players. Nasser and his sons founded paper products and personal care items manufacturer First Quality Enterprises in 1988, which has grown to employ more than 4,000 employees at least seven facilities across the U.S. and Canada.
Real estate is more of a side gig. The Damaghis have paid $182.2 million across 15 deals for developable land according to a records analysis by The Real Deal.
TRD identified the family in November as the buyers who dropped $50.8 million on 2.7 acres south of Brightline’s MiamiCentral downtown passenger train station through sources familiar with the deal. State records for the limited liability company that made the purchase don’t explicitly tie the Damaghis to the deal. Neither the family’s name nor addresses for First Quality’s offices or one of the family’s Great Neck homes are listed in the filings. But the records do list one person of interest: Moshe Oppenheim.
Turns out, Oppenheim is the clue to the Damaghis’ other holdings.
Nine entities registered to Oppenheim — the family’s longtime attorney — bought the majority of the properties from 2019 to 2022.
The Damaghis are behind the deals, according to multiple sources, though no one wanted to speak on the record or even at all, citing the family’s strict instructions to keep them off the radar. ”Real tough” to talk about the family, one source said; they are “very private,” others kept repeating.
Though reluctant, some did budge, provided they remain anonymous. They described the family’s real estate play as a “long-term generational investment.” Another source revealed that the purchases were all cash — indeed, no mortgages are recorded on the real estate. And others said the Damaghis have searched for more South Florida investments as recently as last year.
In Fort Lauderdale’s booming Flagler Village neighborhood, the family owns nearly 5 acres on three sites: land on the northeast corner of Northwest Flagler Drive and Second Street, on the southeast corner of Second Street and Northwest First Avenue, and immediately west of the federal courthouse at 299 East Broward Boulevard.
South of there, they have amassed the block fronting the New River on the northeast corner of South Andrews Avenue and Southeast Fifth Street. They also own nearby parking lots and small commercial buildings, which are likely candidates for redevelopment.
But the family’s first investment was in Miami in 2013 when they bought a full city block of land in Edgewater, between Northeast 32nd and 33rd streets, along the east side of Biscayne Boulevard. This is the only non-concealed deal, as the purchasing entity lists Kambiz Damaghi in state records.
The family has chosen several parcels for development and are “assessing the opportunities” but can’t share more details until the projects are launched, Oppenheim wrote in an emailed response to a list of questions.
For the Damaghis, stealth mode is nothing new, as they have been opaque about their private lives. First Quality’s website and LinkedIn say plenty about the company’s history but make no mention of its owners. Instead, tying the family to the company is more easily done by reading
Temple Israel of Great Neck’s annals also show the Damaghis have been embedded in the region’s Jewish community. In 2012, the temple’s The Voice publication announced a bar mitzvah for Nader and Mitra Damaghi’s son. Kambiz Damaghi has also been listed on the board of trustees for the Sephardic Heritage Alliance for 2017-18.
Through Oppenheim, the family agreed to provide a little about its background for this story, and said they are doing it expressly for the sake of accuracy. In 1978, Nasser and Shahnaz left Iran during the revolution with their sons to escape persecution. Although records indicate the Damaghi family includes numerous cousins, uncles and other relatives, it’s Nader, 61, Kambiz, 59, and Babak, 53, who lead First Quality as co-CEOs — and who are buying up South Florida real estate
One thing the family hasn’t hidden so well is its penchant for palatial homes in Great Neck’s affluent Kings Point.
In 2004, Babak and his wife, Farhnaz, paid $12.8 million for the late comedian Alan King’s home at 40 Shore Drive, according to records. Fronting Manhasset Bay, the house was built in 1926 in a mixture of Tudor and gothic styles, and by 2012, the couple had replaced it with a Colonial-style châteauan measuring more than 15,000 square feet. They sold it in 2017 for $22 million, records show.
Nader and Mitra were nearby neighbors. They paid $7.1 million in 2002 for the 10 Shore Drive manse, which four years later they replaced, also with a Colonial-style castle that spans more than 10,000 square feet on 2 bayfront acres. The couple sold it in 2017 for $20 million, record show.
As for Kambiz and Haleh’s abode at 26 Dock Lane, they sold it in 2017 for $14 million,
but not before litigation gave a glimpse of their lifestyle in the home totaling more than 14,000 square feet.
The couple had a 14-person staff of housekeepers, groundskeepers, cooks, personal assistants and security, according to a 2013 lawsuit filed against them by former estate manager Christopher Marconi.
Marconi claimed he was illegally fired four months in on the job partly over raising issue with Haleh’s personal assistant’s allegedly racist remarks to household staff. In a private meeting, Kambiz told Marconi to “back off” his push to get the assistant fired, insinuating that Kambiz and the assistant had been “sexually intimate” and she had texts that “‘could be perceived’ as inappropriate by Haleh,” according to the lawsuit. Marconi, who could not be reached for comment, lost, though his implication of an extramarital affair struck a chord with Kambiz.
“That is very, very wrong and inappropriate to even suggest,” Kambiz said during a deposition, calling the allegation “shameful,” “despicable” and saying it puts his “honor in question”.
When Miki Naftali and a partner dropped $40.5 million for a Miami Worldcenter development site last March, news releases flooded journalists’ inboxes with announcements for a pair of supertall residential towers. Namdar Group, also based in New York, also didn’t shy away from announcements about its plan for a 41-story and a 43-story apartment towers, also in downtown, last August.
But when TRD reached out to the Damaghis in November about their purchase of the development site south of Brightline’s station, a member of the family vehemently denied they were the buyers and didn’t want to provide his first name.
Whether the Damaghis’ growing presence in South Florida, where generating buzz over real estate deals is just as much part of the game as the actual investment, will push them to abandon their mysterious ways remains to be seen.
They have, however, shown signs that they could be rethinking their long-held modus operandi.
In a follow up call with Oppenheim, he described the Damaghis’ agreement to respond to TRD’s questions in an email as “a first.”