Mar-a-Lago Club is a key piece in the New York Attorney General’s civil fraud case against former President Donald Trump, his sons and the Trump Organization.
And it’s Trump’s $1.5 billion valuation of the Palm Beach property that prosecutors dispute. The attorney general alleges Trump provided banks with false financial statements regarding the company’s real estate portfolio. In September a New York judge agreed, ordering to revoke the its business licenses — though that was paused by an appeals court late Friday.
To defend his valuation of Mar-a-Lago, Trump hired Lawrence Moens, the most successful real estate broker on the tony island. Moens has brokered $11 billion in sales over his career, representing Ken Griffin, Larry Ellison, Steve Wynn and other multibillionaires.
But Moens isn’t like most real estate agents. He’s someone who values his secrecy and built part of his business on it, and now has been thrust into the highest-profile legal battle in the U.S. to defend one of the most scrutinized properties in Trump’s case.
In a deposition, Trump estimated Mar-a-Lago is worth $1.5 billion based on “broker talk.” (A billion-dollar sale would mark a record in Florida.)
Moens, who has known Trump for more than three decades, puts the valuation somewhere between $750 million and $1 billion, according to his deposition. But in financial statements, Trump valued the property at as much as $612 million.
The AG alleges that Trump grossly overvalued it, defrauding lenders who extended loans based on Trump’s numbers. They point to the property appraiser’s valuations, which have gone up to only $28 million.
One thing that the AG and Moens can agree on is that they don’t agree with Trump’s valuations in his financial statements. But Moens thinks that Trump’s financial statements include values that are “off by a mile” and “too low.”
Many points stood out as my colleague Keith Larsen and I read through the depositions and court filings in the case. But what was really interesting was to hear directly from Moens, someone who has never granted us or any other publication an interview.
At one point, Moens compares Mar-a-Lago to the Taj Mahal as “one of the greatest structures there is on the planet Earth.” At another, he says that he trusts no one.
Moens almost disregards the fact that a deed restriction on the property exists — meaning it must remain a private club, unless the government were to allow a change to residential or other use. This is a sticking point for the attorney general and the judge.
“As a personal residence, it’s not impractical to think that they can afford to buy it, use it for their own family use,” Moens said of his multibillionaire clients. “They could do that because I deal with such great wealth, it’s on a magnitude that’s still unbelievable to me, guys with tens of billions or hundreds of billions of dollars.”
What we’re thinking about: The Weekly Dirt turned one year old this weekend. What would you like to read more of? Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and thank you for reading!
Residential: Miami Beach DJ Henrique Jordan sold his waterfront Sunset Islands home at 2501 Lake Avenue for $27 million. A Delaware entity purchased the Miami Beach property. (More on that this coming week.)
Commercial: Monarch Alternative Capital and Tourmaline Capital Partners closed on the $250 million acquisition of the 28-story office building at 801 Brickell Avenue. Nuveen Real Estate sold the property.
— Research by Adam Farence
NEW TO THE MARKET
The waterfront mansion at 355 South Ocean Boulevard in Golden Beach returned to the market for $100 million. The owner is Edith Newman, who lived in the 32,000-square-foot, nine-bedroom estate with her late husband, former electronics company owner Joel Newman. Danny Hertzberg of The Jills Zeder Group at Coldwell Banker took over the listing. The 1.5-acre property is directly on the sand with 250 feet of ocean frontage, a home theater, bowling alley, spa, gym, wine cellar and pool.
A thing we’ve learned
Amazon could eventually send more than 3,200 orbiters to space, filling the sky with constellations of satellites. That’s a concern for scientists and astronomers.
Elsewhere in Florida
Politicians, lobbyists and consultants say that the publication, Florida Politics, lets politicians pay to secure coverage on the news site, according to an investigation by NPR’s David Folkenflik and Miranda Green of Floodlight, a nonprofit newsroom.
A Palm Beach condo owned by Rudy Giuliani is under a federal tax lien. The Internal Revenue Service says Giuliani, who faces millions of dollars in legal bills, owes almost $550,000 in unpaid taxes, CNN reports.
In case you somehow missed it, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida led the successful charge to oust Sen. Kevin McCarthy as speaker. Gaetz is said to be considering a run for governor of Florida.