“If they want to try to suck our blood, make my day:” John Cats takes on venerable lumber store

Midtown Lumber claims developer used “sham” deal to end lease

<p>Red Apple Group&#8217;s John Catsimatidis and 276 West 25th Street (Getty, Google Maps)</p>

Red Apple Group’s John Catsimatidis and 276 West 25th Street (Getty, Google Maps)

Developer John Catsimatidis is ready to go to war with a New York City lumber store.

Midtown Lumber claimed the Red Apple Group CEO conspired with the company’s former landlord to toss it out of its home of six decades at 276 West 25th Street in West Chelsea, according to a complaint filed Tuesday reported by Bloomberg. Catsimatidis said everything he did was “legitimate.”

“If they want to try to suck our blood, make my day,” Catsimatidis said.

Midtown Lumber claims it signed a five-year lease with MRK Holdings through the end of 2021, which included two three-year renewal options. The store had the right to match any third-party offer to buy the building and the landlord couldn’t end the lease to demolish the property, according to the complaint.

Venture Capital Properties offered MRK $6.9 million in February 2019 to buy the property, Midtown Lumber alleged. The store didn’t exercise its option and the sale went through six months later.

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However, the interest in the property was soon conveyed to a company controlled by Catsimatidis, Midtown Lumber alleged, calling the transaction a “sham” deal and claiming the developer’s role in everything was obscured. Red Apple said it would terminate Midtown Lumber’s lease this April, the store said.

The store also claimed it was convinced to execute a lease amendment in 2021 that reduced monthly rent, but added a “demolition clause” in the contract. The store claims the clause is critical in Catsimatidis’ goal to demolish the property and combine it with a development at 280 Eighth Avenue.

Midtown Lumber wants a court order that would rescind the deed and declare the store has the right to buy the property. It also wants up to $5 million in damages.

Catsimatidis didn’t seem particularly concerned about how the dispute would affect his plans in the area, telling Bloomberg he has “other alternatives” if needed.

— Holden Walter-Warner