Crypto exchange backs out of Wynwood lease, igniting lawsuit over $273K commission

Blockchain.com won’t be moving into Cube Wynwd after signing lease for two floors last year

From left: Brick & Timber Collective’s Glenn Gilmore, Blanca's Tere Blanca, Blockchain's Peter Smith, and Timber Collective’s Jesse Feldman with the Cube WYNWD
From left: Brick & Timber Collective’s Glenn Gilmore, Blanca's Tere Blanca, Blockchain's Peter Smith, and Timber Collective’s Jesse Feldman with the Cube WYNWD (Cube WYNWD, LinkedIn, Blockchain, Blanca)

A Cryptocurrency exchange backed out of a lease to establish its headquarters in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood. Now, the commercial brokerage that landed Blockchain.com as one of the building’s signature tenants is mounting a legal battle to collect the second half of a $546,438 commission. 

The dispute is the latest fallout ignited by the crypto market collapsing in recent months. 

Blanca Commercial Real Estate last month sued Cube Wynwd owner Brick & Timber Collective, and a joint venture between Tricera Capital and Lndmrk Development that sold the property to Brick & Timber in December. Brick & Timber, a San Francisco-based real estate firm led by Jesse Feldman and Glenn Gilmore, paid $62 million for Cube Wynwd, records show. 

The lawsuit, filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, alleges Brick & Timber is refusing to pay Blanca Commercial $273,219 that’s been overdue for three months. 

“We regret having to take this action,” Blanca Commercial CEO Tere Blanca said in an emailed statement. “Our firm has never been put in a position that required legal action to pursue payment of earned fees, but at this time I have to do the right thing for the firm.”

Gilmore, who also provided an emailed statement, said Blanca Commercial received the first half of its commission from the Tricera-led joint venture last year, even though Blockchain.com is not coming to Cube Wynwd.

Blockchain.com, a New York-based exchange that allows people to buy, sell and hold cryptocurrencies, signed a lease for two floors spanning 22,000 square feet at Cube Wynwd. The office space was supposed to be Blockchain.com’s new headquarters. 

In July, when Cube Wynwd was under contract to sell, Blockchain.com informed Blanca Commercial, Brick & Timber and Tricera that the company “did not intend to move in or occupy the premises,” Gilmore said. 

He added: “If and when Blockchain occupies the premises and begins paying rent, [Brick & Timber] will pay the second half [of the] commission happily.”

In addition to Cube Wynwd, Brick & Timber also owns two other Wynwood commercial properties. Last year, the firm paid a combined $58 million for the Wynwood Annex at 215 Northwest 24th Street and an office and retail building at 2724 and 2734 Northwest First Avenue.

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Eight-story Cube Wynwd, with 100,000 square feet of office space, was completed in 2019 by a partnership between Redsky Capital and JZ Capital Partners. Tricera, led by CEO Ben Mandell, and Lndmrk, led by principal Alex Karakhanian, paid $28 million for Cube Wynwd in 2021.

The Blanca Commercial lawsuit names the ownership entity managed by Tricera’s Mandell as a defendant. Mandell, Tricera Capital, Karakhanian and Lndmrk, which was a passive investor in Cube Wynwd, are not named as defendants. Mandell and Karakhanian declined comment. 

Prior to closing the deal with Brick & Timber, the Tricera Lndmrk affiliate reassured Blanca Commercial that the brokerage would get the second part of its commission, the lawsuit alleges.

When the closing took place, the seller transferred the $273,219 to the buyer “with the recognition and instructions that Brick & Timber transfer this money to Blanca,” the complaint states. 

Blanca Commercial claims Blockchain.com’s backing out of the lease “is not relevant based on the clear terms of the lease and commission agreement,” per the lawsuit. 

A copy of the agreement attached to the lawsuit states that if the lease is terminated, “the second half of the commission shall be deemed to be forfeited.” However, Brick & Timber and Blockchain.com, led by CEO Peter Smith, have not officially killed the lease. 

Blockchain.com spokespeople did not respond to an email request for comment. The company, which garnered a $14 billion valuation last year, is attempting to sell off assets as Blockchain.com scrambles for capital, according to published reports. 

Heralded as the “capital of crypto” by Mayor Francis Suarez, Miami is the epicenter of the digital currency meltdown. In January, a bankruptcy judge approved the termination of a naming rights agreement for the former FTX Arena in downtown Miami. The Miami Heat NBA franchise and Miami-Dade County sought to kill the $2 million-a-year deal in the wake of FTX cratering. The cryptocurrency exchange was insolvent due to the mishandling of customer funds.

Meanwhile, disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried is facing multiple counts of conspiracy, wire fraud and conspiring to violate U.S. campaign finance laws by making illegal political donations. His Miami-based corporation, West Realm Shires Services, owned FTX.