Tamir Sapir, Soviet-born cabbie turned Big Apple real estate titan, has had an interesting last few years. His company, the Sapir Organiation, helped develop such high-profile buildings as Trump Soho. He bought (for $40 million) and sold (for $44 million) Fifth Avenue’s iconic Duke Semans Mansion. He pleaded guilty to bringing illegal endangered animal carcasses into the country aboard his 150-foot yacht. Like we said, interesting times! But is he aware that any of it happened? According to his lawyer, probably not.
Sapir is being sued for $130 million by GSO Re Onshore, a fund controlled by the Blackstone Group, over an unpaid loan used to develop the William Beaver House, the luxury Financial District condo building designed by Andre Balazs. The case has been making its way through the court system, and the proceedings so far, archived for public consumption (search using the index number 650367/2010) have featured salacious accusations, including conspiratorial shenanigans by a Sapir attorney and partner.
Sapir’s defence for why he amended the loan and made such big personal guarantees that helped the debt spiral out of control is simple: He was tricked! How did one of the richest men in the world get duped at his own game? That’s where things get really weird.
According to Sapir’s attorney, Stephen Meister, the billionaire has been suffering from a “deteriorating mental condition” called aphasia. This has left him unable to do little more than smile and sign his name—since 1998.
This shocking revelation came during the most recent court date earlier this month, the transcript of which was posted online on August 19. On page 20 of the 26-page document, Meister asks the court to seal his statement, which is denied by the judge. After a brief recess requested by Meister so that he can contact his client, he tells all.
It’s long been reported that Alex Sapir, Tamir’s son, is now calling the shots at the Sapir organisation (the elder Sapir is listed as the company’s chairman), but has one of the most powerful figures in New York City real estate really been only capable of signing his name for over a decade? And if so, how was it kept a secret for so long? Because it had to be, according to Meister, who tells the court that word leaking out about Sapir’s condition will cause lenders acting in a “predatory manner” to swoop in and damage the company. A plot twist worthy of daytime TV, made even more jarring when read on the cold, indifferent pages of court transcripts:
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