Sour Suit Over GVA Williams Sale

Candace Carmel Barasch, heir to one of New York real estate’s family fortunes, is suing a prominent brokerage, and three men who run it, for allegedly cheating her out of $4 million.

Ms. Carmel has sued Williams Real Estate, a First Service Company, its executive chairman, Robert Freedman, and Michael J. Cohen and Andrew Roos, both shareholders, brokers and descendants of the firm’s founding principals, for engaging in a transaction “tainted with fraud, illegality and self-dealing.”

The transaction is First Service’s much-ballyhooed October purchase of a 65 percent interest in GVA Williams for $27.5 million, according to the suit, which was filed in Manhattan Supreme Court on Jan. 8. Ms. Carmel Barasch, a GVA Williams shareholder, claims she has seen no money from the transaction, despite her formal objection to the sale, which should by law have triggered her right “to receive fair value for her Shares.” 

“As things stand now, [she] has gone from having a 10.33 percent interest in a Company with a value of approximately $50 million to having nothing,” reads the complaint. Meanwhile, according to the suit, $4.35 million of the initial purchase price was paid to other shareholders and brokers, including $1.5 million to Mr. Freedman. The suit claims he, broker Mark Jaccom and CFO William Barret each also received $500,000 for “closing costs.”

The suit is particularly ugly in that it pits Messrs. Cohen and Roos and Ms. Carmel Barasch, heirs of former friends and partners, against one another.

“The part that’s most galling is that their fathers would be so pissed off,” said a source close to the Carmel family. “The company was founded on the fact that all these guys owned buildings. They were friends, and partners in business together. The kids grew up together.”

According to a 2005 Real Estate Weekly article, Ms. Carmel Barasch’s father, Robert Carmel, started working as a trainee at GVA Williams in 1959 for $35 a week. He ultimately became a principal, vice chairman and executive committee member. In 1996, when he was only 59, he died of lymphoma, leaving his shares to his daughter, Candace, or “Candy,” Carmel.

Among his accomplishments, Carmel and his partners “developed 979 Third Avenue, at 58th Street; 150 East 58th Street; and 1700 Broadway, between 53rd and 54th streets, among others,” according to Carmel’s obit in The New York Times. “Another prestigious address in the portfolio was One Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, near the United Nations headquarters.”

Ms. Carmel Barasch, who worked as an attorney at the firm before becoming a stay-at-home mother, could not be reached for comment. Nor could the defendants, though their attorney told The Observer that the lawsuit was “completely meritless.”

“She was treated fairly at all times, and it’s unfortunate that she has decided to bring litigation against the company that her father helped build,” said Peter Wang, of Foley & Lardner LLP.

drubinstein@observer.com

Sour Suit Over GVA Williams Sale