UPDATE 6/12/2014: The new owner of 1523 Walnut Street has moved to evict Avance, the current tenant.
Storied Philadelphia chef Georges Perrier has owned 1523 Walnut Street since 1981. It housed his legendary French restaurant Le Bec-Fin, which closed in June 2013, making way for Avance, Perrier's tenant. But now, Perrier has lost ownership of the building in a sheriff's sale.
The sale, which occurred on June 3rd, was, in part, the result of a $2.75 million judgment against Perrier in favor of The Bancorp, the lender who gave the chef a $3.5 million loan in 2007 for Table 31, Perrier's failed restaurant inside the Comcast Center. According to court documents, Perrier failed to pay back that loan. The building was sold to law firm Dilworth Paxson for $59,400, the minimum bid set forth by the sheriff's office.
One foreclosure attorney we spoke with, who reviewed the court and deed records, indicates that the building was purchased on behalf of WA Financial Partners, L.P., a company created earlier this year whose registered address is 1425 Walnut Street, Suite 300. That address corresponds to Pearl Properties, the developer responsible for the DiBruno Bros. location in Rittenhouse, Marc Vetri's Amis in Midtown Village, and Michael Solomonov's Percy Street Barbecue.
But the attorney also says that there are some unusual aspects to this sheriff's sale that suggest that Perrier is actually cooperating with WA Financial Partners and The Bancorp in the transaction. And it turns out that Perrier might be doing all this to put the screws to his ex-wife, Andrea Perrier.
In 2013, Andrea Perrier obtained a $370,357 judgment against Georges Perrier in Philadelphia's Common Pleas Court. As a result, Perrier couldn't sell 1523 Walnut Street without fulfilling the lien she had against him. But if the property were foreclosed upon by a lien holder with a claim that preceded hers, then the property is sold free and clear of any later judgments. And, according to the attorney, Perrier would have to have some sort of deal worked out between him, Bancorp and WA Financial Partners that took care of his debt.
"Because of her judgment, he couldn't just sell this property," says the attorney, who declined to use his name. "My working theory is that he wanted to sell the place and that he got Bancorp to help him do it. It's the only way you can sell a piece of property without paying a lien. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Of course, if you're the missus, you don't like it one bit."
Neither Perrier nor the other parties involved in the sheriff's sale returned a call seeking comment.
All Le Bec Fin coverage [f8b8z]