Nir Meir: I’m penniless
Former HFZ Capital exec says all he has left are the clothes on his back
Nir Meir is a material boy.
Since the spectacular collapse of his former firm, luxury condo developer HFZ Capital Group, Meir has spent the last few years defying his creditors by living the high life in South Florida.
Lawsuits filed in the wake of HFZ’s implosion accuse Meir of splurging on yacht and private jet charters, fine wines, a $135,000-per-month home rental, stays at the Four Seasons and $1.5 million worth of gold, among other extravagances.
But now Meir says he’s essentially penniless. He has $5,000 in his bank account, he stated in an affidavit late last month, and has been staying at a friend’s house.
“All I have left are articles of clothing that I need to survive,” Meir claimed.
Meir’s cry of poverty was submitted as part of a lawsuit brought by Israeli car importer Yoav Harlap, who lent millions to an HFZ project on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. HFZ defaulted on the loan, which Meir and HFZ founder Ziel Feldman had personally guaranteed. Harlap’s company, YH Lex Estates, won an $18.5 million judgment against Meir in 2021 and against Feldman a year later.
The judgment, it turns out, was the easy part.
Meir has stifled Harlap’s attempts to collect on the debt by arguing in court that his lavish lifestyle is entirely funded by his wife, Ranee Bartolacci, who has been described by her own attorney as a “trust fund baby.”
When the couple sold their Hamptons estate to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft for $43 million in 2021, YH Lex Estates tried to collect on the proceeds. But Meir’s attorneys claimed that Bartolacci was the property’s true owner and that the proceeds were hers.
“Nir had a healthy lifestyle when he was at HFZ, nothing to apologize for,” Larry Hutcher of Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, Meir’s attorney at the time, told The Real Deal last year. “He was doing well, and his wife has elected to continue to live a lifestyle.”
Harlap’s company is now seeking for a second time to hold Meir in contempt of court. The creditor alleges Meir defied court orders by moving money out of a shell company called Ermitage One, which Meir had said was managed by Bartolacci.
As proof that Meir was in control of Ermitage, YH Lex Estate’s lawyers claim that Meir used the pseudonym “Nir Bartolacci” to purchase gold from an online metals retailer on Ermitage’s behalf. Meir made four calls to the retailer, JM Bullion, ordering hundreds of ounces of Credit Suisse gold bars in Ermitage’s name, according to court documents.
In an April court filing, Meir’s attorney Jonathan Marc Davidoff called the contempt motion “a desperate attempt to extort Meir” and said a trustee’s forensic evaluations showed that as of last July, Meir had liabilities of more than $41 million but just $19,000 in cash and a wine collection valued at $35,000 — his only other asset.
But a day after that filing, Davidoff filed a letter to the judge seeking to withdraw as Meir’s attorney, citing “issues that arose between Meir and the law firm.” Davidoff did not respond to a request for comment.
As HFZ’s signature condo project languished, unfinished, above Manhattan’s High Line, Meir and Bartolacci weren’t exactly laying low in Miami Beach.
Bartolacci paid $135,000 a month to put the family up in a waterfront home. It may have been a rental, but she allegedly treated the house like her own, pouring $600,000 into improvements including a jet ski dock and a fish pond.
Bartolacci had been renting the seven-bedroom Sunset Islands house from spec home developer and restaurateur Mathieu Massa. That quickly turned into a legal battle of its own. In February, Massa attempted to evict Bartolacci, who was living there with Meir and their children, for alleged failure to pay rent.
Meir hired armed guards to defend the property. The police were called and Massa succeeded in evicting Meir and Bartolacci in March, but only briefly. Within days, Bartolacci’s attorneys got a judge to reverse the eviction, only for her to move out a month later.
Bartolacci’s lawyer is now seeking to claw back some of the rent paid because of a defect with the seawall that allegedly made the property unsafe. An inspector issued an unsafe structure violation at the property in March, Miami Beach city records show.
“It created dangerous conditions,” said Hutcher. “They had no choice but to vacate the house.”
Massa has been left bewildered.
“If any of this was true, why would they have fought to get back in? Why would you continue to live there and pay rent?” said Massa’s attorney, Alan Perlman of Dickinson Wright.
Attorneys for Massa have questioned how Meir can pay his legal fees after facing multiple judgments. Meir stated in the affidavit last month that he has no active credit cards, owns no properties and that his friend charges him no rent and pays for his utilities.
“I pay no rent as I am currently living at a friend’s place temporarily,” Meir stated. “All of my legal bills which are vital to my defense and the protection of my rights are being paid by third parties.”