06/29/2011

Chetrit Brothers Part Ways, Break Up Company

The four Chetrit brothers, who rank among the largest private holders of commercial real estate in Manhattan, have split up.

The fissure, which occurred in the past month or so, has divided the family business in two. Elder brothers Joseph Chetrit and Meyer Chetrit will continue to operate under the Chetrit Group name, but have relocated from the firmís longtime headquarters at 404 Fifth Avenue into offices at 512 Seventh Avenue. Meanwhile, brothers Jacob Chetrit and Juda Chetrit are working out of the Fifth Avenue office, but will operate under the name of Chetrit Organization.

Word of the breakup began circulating through Manhattan real estate circles over the past couple of weeks. Multiple real estate pros said it appeared to be acrimonious, but few details were available. Most sources were reluctant to discuss the matter at all, for fear of possibly alienating the Chetrits, major investors who have a reputation for being both tough-minded and secretive. The Chetrits didnít return calls seeking comment. Itís unclear how the brothersí joint holdings might be affected.

The brothers shun the press, maintain no public website and are rarely photographed. Like developers Joseph Moinian, Yair Levy and Charles Dayan, Joseph Chetrit moved into commercial real estate after being successful in New Yorkís garment and fabric industries. The four men have teamed up on deals.

Joseph Chetrit was widely viewed as the leader of Chetrit Group. A cousin, Issac Chetrit, has been linked to the firm in years past, but market players said he operates independently and has often competed with the brothers on deals.

The Chetrits began buying and developing office, retail, multi-family and hotel properties on a large scale in the early 2000s, usually via partnerships. They have focused on Manhattan, but also amassed holdings in Chicago and Florida.

Among the largest properties in which they hold stakes are the 3.5 million-square-foot Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) in Chicago, the 760,000-sf office and retail building at 620 Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan (see article on Page 1) and the 414,000-sf office building at 530 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

Both Willis Tower and 620 Avenue of the Americas are for sale. Itís unclear if there is any connection between those offerings and the breakup.

Over the past decade, the Chetrits and their partners arranged almost $5 billion of securitized mortgages on more than a dozen properties. In some cases, loan documents cited individual brothers as the sponsors, but in other cases Chetrit Group was cited.

Among the Manhattan properties financed were: the Starrett-Lehigh Building, 450 West 33rd Street, 500-512 Seventh Avenue, 1185 Avenue of the Americas, the Toy Buildings complex, 530 Fifth Avenue, 123 William Street, 65 Broadway and 401 Fifth Avenue. The list outside of New York includes the buildings at One North Dearborn Street, One North LaSalle Street and 360 North Michigan Avenue in Chicago, and the 593-unit Hotel Gansevoort/Paradiso Residences in Miami Beach. The Chetrits have since sold their interests in several of those properties.

In addition to Moinian, Levy and Dayan, the partners of the Chetrits have included Arbor Realty of Uniondale, N.Y., Mark Karasick, Edward Minskoff, Yisroel Gluck, Rubin Schron, Joseph Tabak and Jeff Wasserman.

On the development side, Chetrit Group teamed up with Stellar Management of New York in 2000 to buy a parcel on Columbus Avenue, between West 97th and West 100th Street, on Manhattanís Upper West Side for $122 million from Helmsley-Spear of New York. The duo has just completed a complex on the site that encompasses some 700 apartments and 500,000 sf of retail space. Also, several published reports said the firm recently began work to convert the former Caledonian Hospital complex in Brooklyn into residential condominiums.

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