News.

Weekly Market Report - March 13, 2022

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Ashkenazy could lose another retail property to foreclosure


A foreclosure suit initiated Tuesday alleges that Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. defaulted on its $12.3 million mortgage for the retail portion of 1400 Fifth Avenue, an eight-story condo building in Harlem. A trustee for the loan’s bondholders alleges that Ashkenazy stopped making monthly mortgage payments in April 2020. Barcalys originated the $12.3 million loan in September 2018, which was subsequently securitized and sold to investors. The trustee claims that Ben Ashkenazy and Andrew Cohen, CEO of commercial real estate investor Cohen Commercial Properties, personally guaranteed the loan, according to the lawsuit filed in New York Supreme Court.


The suit seeks $16.7 million in damages, which includes the principal balance, interest and other fees. A separate lawsuit alleges that Ashkenazy failed to pay common expenses and assessments owed to the building’s condo board. The board in turn filed a lien against the property, which takes up the ground floor of the 129-unit condo building. But the company’s portfolio has shown signs of distress during the pandemic. In October, SL Green Realty foreclosed on Ashkenazy’s 690 Madison Avenue, a five-story, mixed-use building anchored by the New York flagship store of luxury designer Hermès.


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San Francisco, NYC submarkets lead priciest offices


California dominated in the office space market with more than half of the 50 priciest office submarkets in the nation during the fourth quarter of 2021, according to a CommercialSearch report of the priciest office markets by price per square foot last quarter. Menlo Park, a San Francisco submarket, led the way with an average asking rent of $118.73 per square foot. It was one of only two submarkets with average asking rents above $100 per square foot, the other being the Plaza District in Manhattan, New York ($107.41 psf).


The Bay Area and San Francisco boasted four of the five most expensive office submarkets in the nation last quarter.Manhattan had three of the top ten most expensive office submarkets of the quarter. Trailing the Plaza District was Chelsea, ranking sixth overall at an average of $84.67 per square foot, and Times Square-Hell’s Kitchen, seventh overall at $81.24.


Manhattan claimed six of the top 50 spots overall and half of the Northeast region’s placements on the rankings. Other submarkets in the borough to rank in the top 50 include Gramercy Park ($62.99 psf), Murray Hill ($59.16 psf) and the Financial District ($56.26), the latter being the city’s lone representative outside of Midtown.


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Private equity firms take stakes in accounting firms


Private equity firms are increasing their funding of accounting firms in a pair of deals announced this week, with Lightyear Capital partnering with Schellman & Co., and CVC Capital Partners investing in CFGI. Lightyear said Friday that its affiliated investment funds have agreed to acquire assets from and partner with Schellman in forming a new technology and cybersecurity venture known as Schellman Compliance LLC. Going forward, Tampa-based Schellman, as a licensed CPA firm, will continue to provide attest services, while Schellman Compliance will provide non-attest services. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The investments may also lead to changes in leadership.


In the case of Schellman, the majority ownership interests of Schellman’s current CEO and founder, Chris Schellman, will be recapitalized, allowing him to exit the business six years prior to his previously announced 2027 retirement date. Schellman’s current president, Avani Desai, will become CEO, while all other members of Schellman’s senior leadership team will continue in their current roles. CFGI, in contrast, didn’t have to set up an alternative practice structure as it was already partly owned by an investment firm, Carlyle.


In the latest deal with CVC Capital Partners, CFGI co-CEOs Nick Nardone and Shane Caiazzo pointed out their firm doesn’t have to worry about auditor independence. CFGI says it already has more than 2,500 clients and a team of over 650 professionals across 12 offices. All existing shareholders are reinvesting in the transaction in partnership with CVC, including funds managed by Carlyle, co-CEOs Nardone and Caiazzo, and the partners of CFGI. Additional terms of the deal were not disclosed. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter.