Joel Schreiber’s Billionaires’ Row apartment faces tax foreclosure

Bank of New York alleges WeWork’s first investor owes $1.3M on condo

A photo illustration of Joel Schreiber (right) and 146 West 57th Street (Getty Images, Google Maps)
A photo illustration of Joel Schreiber (right) and 146 West 57th Street (Getty Images, Google Maps)

Joel Schreiber achieved a fair measure of celebrity in the real estate world by becoming the first investor to buy a stake in WeWork, way back in 2010. It’s been a rocky road since.

In the latest snafu, a Billionaires’ Row penthouse he owns is facing foreclosure for unpaid taxes.

Bank of New York bought a tax lien on the unit along with dozens of others from New York City in February. This month, the bank filed a lawsuit alleging an entity tied to Schreiber owes $1.32 million in taxes. The bank seeks to foreclose on the property, at 146 West 57th Street.

Schreiber became WeWork’s initial investor when he made Adam Neumann an offer in 2010. Since then, Schreiber has garnered as much attention for his legal battles: He has a long list of litigation with former partners and lenders.

Around the time of his WeWork investment, Schreiber was mostly dabbling in Brooklyn real estate, including the purchase of a Williamsburg residential and retail portfolio with RedSky Capital and JZ Capital Partners.

But in 2014, Schreiber’s firm, Waterbridge Capital, saw a rare opportunity to buy a Billionaires’ Row condo with views of Central Park on the cheap.

An entity tied to Waterbridge purchased the penthouse in the Metropolitan Towers Condominium for $7.32 million along with a smaller unit, 32D, in 2014 from Sony Entertainment, according to public records. The entity, WBSH MET Tower, then got a $5 million loan from InterAudi Bank. Schreiber signed the loan documents.

In 2016, the entity secured an additional $500,000 from InterAudi bank and consolidated that with the $5 million loan. Documentation for the $5.5 million loan lists it as “care of” the prominent New York commercial broker Soly Halabi at 7 Times Square, an address connected to both Waterbridge and the investment firm Forefront Capital.

By late 2020, the condo unit faced issues beyond taxes: The condo board placed a lien against it for unpaid common charges of about $41,000. It is unclear whether that has been resolved. The board did not return a call for comment.

Over the years, WBSH MET Tower has contested its taxes with New York City, most recently in 2019, when it filed a petition alleging the “assessed valuation exceeds the full value of the real property.” The petitions were all signed by Halabi as a member of WBSH MET Tower.

In a positive sign for Schreiber, the smaller unit, 32D, sold for $750,000 in May, records show.

The penthouse played a role in a lawsuit against Schreiber by Forefront Income Trust, an affiliate of Forefront Capital. Schreiber pledged the penthouse as collateral for a $2.5 million, 90-day loan from Forefront in 2015, according to an exhibit attached to the lawsuit. Forefront alleged that Schreiber defaulted on the loan and over-pledged his collateral.

Then in late 2020, the Department of Justice charged Forefront Income Trust’s CEO Bradley Reifler with defrauding North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance, the oldest African American life insurance company in the country, out of $34 million. The agency said Reifler put it in high-risk investments and diverted some for personal and business use.

(Two years earlier, North Carolina Mutual Insurance had entered into a settlement with Schreiber concerning loans transferred from the insurer’s assets to Schreiber through Reifler, according to the North Carolina Commissioner of Insurance.)

In June, the lawsuit between Forefront and Reifler was discontinued, according to court documents.

Harry Shapiro of Smith and Shapiro, who represents Schreiber, said “any debts and loans involving WSBH Met Tower and Forefront Income Trust were fully paid and satisfied by WSBH Met Tower.” He did not comment on the tax lien.

Schreiber’s legal battles come as his firm, Waterbridge Capital, is trying to close on the $155 million purchase of Union Bank Plaza, a 40-story tower in Downtown L.A. His firm was revealed as the winning bidder in July.

Meanwhile, he is facing a foreclosure on a 1.1 million square foot commercial building, also in Downtown L.A., at 801 South Broadway. Schreiber put the property entity into bankruptcy to stop the foreclosure.

Schreiber is also facing a lawsuit by Goldman Sachs alleging that he pledged WeWork stock in exchange for a $20 million loan after having sold some of the stock prior to WeWork’s public offering in 2021. Schreiber’s attorney denied that in a court filing but did not return a request for comment. Halabi also did not comment.