Brook J. Lenfest, scion of philantropist Gerry Lenfest and owner of the Chestnut Street site slated to be the new Starwood Element/W Hotel, is in hot water again. The 22,400-square-foot parcel was originally purchased in 2000 by Lenfest and a group others–including Mariner Chestnut Partners L.P.–for $11.15 million. Plans (Waldorf Astoria, anyone?) ensued and tanked and were pitched and ditched. Litigation has been endless.
But the worst of the fighting, perhaps, has been internecine. The two principals in Mariner Chestnut, Davin S. Lamm and Marc Wiser, filed a suit in 2010 claiming that their limited partnership entitled them to more decision-making power than they were getting–and more reward. In the midst of that ugliness, the parcel went up for auction, and Lenfest was the winning bidder at $12 million.
Now comes another suit from Lamm and Wiser, this time alleging Lenfest defrauded them by not disclosing he was already in talks with Starwood at the time of the auction.
In interviews, Lamm's lawyer, Oliver Griffin of Kutak Rock L.L.P., said the partners want their fair share of the land's value, perhaps as much as $100 million with the Starwood deal.
Lenfest "forgot to tell everybody that he had struck a deal with Starwood months before the auction," Griffin said. "He knew that he cut his limited partners out of the Starwood deal and bought the property essentially from himself for a song."
Lenfest's lawyer denies the claims and will contest the six counts, including fraud, vigorously.