One of Miami's most elite social clubs, the Surf Club, has seen its final days. Members have turned against each other with lawsuits and counter suits. For over eighty years there were soirees, charity balls, shows and lounging in oceanfront cabanas. Now it has turned into a cash grab. Things turned antisocial last year after the luxury Miami Beach club which is owned by its members voted to agree to a $116 million acquisition by a wealthy luxury real estate developer. One group of members has claimed that the other side cut them out of their share of the money for the sale of the piece of Miami real estate. More recently, the Florida attorney general intervened, stating that if some members or their heirs canít be located, the state is entitled to those proceeds from the sale of the Miami luxury real estate.
Some of the players involved include an Austrian-born baron, a philanthropist, horse breeders, a luxury-retail magnate and the wife of Dolphins coaching legend Don Shula. Some members have reached individual confidential settlements.
Another squabble broke out as the club sued Miami attorney Stanley B. Price, whom it had hired to help obtain historic designation and tax breaks. The club says that the historic status cut $30 million to $50?million from its market value and limits development on the site. It is an 8.7-acre piece of real estate at 9011 Collins Avenue, which has 815 feet of luxury oceanfront real estate in Surfside.
The takeover was headed by Nadim Achi, founder and managing partner of the Miami real-estate investment firm of Fort Capital Management. Achi put together a group that included the KoÁ Group, a Turkish conglomerate; the Cabot family of Boston; and several Brazilian and Peruvian families. They outbid a number of other potential suitors for the prime piece of luxury real estate. Plans will call for erecting a glass luxury condominium and a five-star hotel built around the historic structures, which are to be thoroughly restored. New York architect Richard Meier has been tapped to design the project. The Miami real estate deal was approved by a large percentage of the active members, 92 percent, because it was almost necessary due to falling membership and soaring maintenance bills at the 80-year-old Miami real estate. Each of the active members get $727,000. Another group of equity members was allowed over the years to have an inactive status. Most of them are heirs of members who stopped paying dues and gave up the right vote or use the facility all while retaining the right to a share of proceeds if the club were dissolved.
Here is where people get mad. The club states that the reverse merger didnít dissolve the club and that the acquirer ended up as its only member. $17.5 million is in escrow, awaiting the courtís decision.
The clubís demise comes after years of decline. Back in its heyday, many of Miamiís elite were members of the club, as long as you weren't a Jew or black. The Mediterranean-style club was designed by Miami architect Russell Pancoast and boasts a spectacular central hall, Peacock Alley, that extends from Collins Avenue to the beach.
Sir Winston Churchill painted seascapes there. Club guests included the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, General Douglas MacArthur, and Elizabeth Taylor. There were shows like those by Alfred Baron, a member that included elephants and more in the glory days.
Achi is moving forward with plans for a luxury 80-room hotel and a 150-unit oceanfront luxury condominium with another luxury 24 units planned for the west side of Collins Avenue. His goal is to bring back the original splendor of the club.
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Andres Leiser is a local contributor for Constec Realty's Miami luxury real estate website. Andres Leiser has been involved in Miami real estate for over a decade. For more information please visit www.constecrealty.com
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