By Al Barbarino
He lost his house. He lost his wife. And now embattled real estate big Kent Swig says his ex-father-in-law, industry luminary Harry Macklowe, has embarked on a brazen “vendetta” aimed at “starving” him of every penny he’s got.
In affidavits by Swig and his lawyer Tom Mullaney filed with the Manhattan Supreme Court late last month in response to a lawsuit filed by Macklowe, the embattled owner says it’s him who should be suing his former father-in-law for going back on his word.
According Mullaney, Macklowe signed a promissory note on a $200,000 loan he made Swig, saying he wouldn’t sue for repayment if it would dip the beleaguered Californian into bankruptcy.
“The Macklowes have treated Mr. Swig (their estranged son-in-law), and the Note, with flamboyant disregard and unadulterated spite,” the papers read.
The note was signed, according to court papers, at a time when Swig was experiencing financial difficulties personally and in his business “not uncommon in the recent severe economic downturn in the real estate market.”
Swig was also experiencing strains in his marriage to wife Elizabeth Macklowe. Soon after the note was signed, the couple — who have two children — began divorce proceedings. Soon after that, the lawsuits against Swig started to pile up.
In a diversion from his firm’s commercial litigation practice, real estate lawyer Stephen Meister represented Mrs. Swig in a series of claims regarding the foreclosure of the couple’s 740 Park Ave. apartment and a summer home in the Hamptons, as well as trusts for the couple’s two sons, according to court papers.
Like his client, Meister, of the law firm Meister Seelig & Fein LLP, is a veteran of the oftentimes vicious real estate arena who once told a court a “Ross-ectomy,” would remove Stephen Ross from the problems his client, Joe Moinian, was having at 1775 Broadway, now Three Columbus Circle.
He has argued in the various suits against Swig that funds due him should be withheld because he might go bankrupt.
“The Macklowe / Meister argument … makes perfect sense,” said Mullaney in the latest court papers, “if you want to see Mr. Swig go bankrupt.
“Macklowe and Meister do not even try to hide the zeal with which they pursue that very goal,” the papers state. “The Motion should be denied, and Mr. Swig be given leave to make a counter-claim against the Macklowe’s for their breach of the Note and palpable bad faith.”
Swig, the scion of a San Francisco real estate empire that dates back to the 1930s, studied Chinese History at Brown University and law at Hastings College of Law in San Francisco.
Today, he is still a principal in his family’s San Francisco-based company. He is also owner and co-chairman of Terra Holdings, which owns and operates the residential firms Brown Harris Stevens and Halstead Property ; owner of Falcon Pacific Construction; and president of Swig Equities, an investment and development firm.
Famously clattered about the face with an ice-bucket by a furious former partner, he’s known as a cool operator who was a rising star of the boom era.
“I never thought it was possible, but I feel bad for Kent Swig,” said attorney Adam Leitman Bailey, of Adam Leitman Bailey P.C., who is not associated with the case.
“This suit is just punishment, not to get the $200,000. It’s just pure punishment and harassment.”
Bailey said the “unorthodox” filing of the Macklowe suit — by Motion for Summary Judgment as opposed to the customary Summons of Complaints — was a means of avoiding a trial.
“They did it number one, to harass, and number two, to avoid the delay,” he said, predicting Macklowe would ultimately win.
“He’s out there to protect his daughter,” Bailey added. “He’s not going to win this case without a two-year fight but, in the end Macklowe will win his $200,000. He might not get it paid, but he will win the judgment.”
A spokesman for Swig said, “Unfortunately, the Macklowes appear to be using the courts to inflict injuries, not redress them, now that Mr. Swig’s long-term marriage to their daughter Elizabeth has ended, all of which results only in hurting all those involved.”
Meister did not return calls seeking comment.