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Cuba Cruises, Police Brutality Cases Mark Work by Kozyak Tropin’s Lopez

By ALM Staff

Javier Lopez took on cases targeting a decades-old Cuban policy of excluding the arrival of Cuban nationals by boat and won a settlement in a police brutality case for a mentally ill client.

Click here for the original article.

The buyers of six key lots in West Grove aren’t so mysterious after all

The “mystery” buyers who won six sought-after West Coconut Grove lots in U.S. bankruptcy court are not so mysterious after all: They are well-known Miami financial figures Bruce Berkowitz and Bill Mahone.

Click here to read the full article.

Billionaire, fund manager buy Coconut Grove properties out of bankruptcy

By Brian Bandell

 A company managed by billionaire insurance magnate William R. Berkley and equity fund manager Bruce Berkowitz acquired a collection of properties in Miami’s Coconut Grove at bankruptcy auction for $5.4 million.

The six parcels totaling 43,750 square feet are located in the Central Grove, a historically black neighborhood that has been economically disadvantaged. Not all of the parcels are contiguous, so it would require additional land purchases to assemble a large-scale redevelopment site.

The properties are at 3364, 3384, 3441 and 3461 Grand Ave., plus 3400 and 3412 Florida Ave. They were owned by Nassau Development of Village West Corp. and Grand Abbaco Development of Village West Corp., which both filed for Chapter 11 reorganization protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in 2015.

Drew Dillworth, who was appointed Chapter 11 trustee in the case, hired MelandRussin&Budwick attorneys Peter Russin and Daniel Gonzalez to represent him. Russin said Dillworth tried to negotiate a deal with the third-party owners in the area to sell the majority of the block, but that didn’t work out.

County records show that affiliates of Point Group Advisors own a handful of contiguous parcels.

“Anybody who acquires those lots would want to get the rest of the assemblage,” Russin said.

After a round of competitive bidding, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge A. Jay Cristolapproved the $5.4 million high bid of B and B Grove Properties LLC on Oct. 31. Gonzalez said the deal closed Nov. 7, and he expects the buyer to pursue a mixed-use project with commercial and residential use.

Records filed in bankruptcy court show that B and B Grove Properties is managed by Berkley and Berkowitz.

Forbes pegged Berkley’s net worth at $1.62 billion. The Connecticut resident is the founder and executive chairman of insurance firm W.R. Berkley Corp.

Berkowitz is head of Miami-based Fairholme Capital Management, which runs three large equity funds. He’s been in the news this year for his influence over Sears Holdings, where he recently stepped down from the board.

“They are individuals who are respected and have a very good track record in the business world,” said Coral Gables attorney Corali Lopez-Castro, who represents B and B Grove Properties in bankruptcy court.

Lopez-Castro said her clients have not yet made specific development plans or engaged in deals to acquire more property in Coconut Grove.

“We appreciate the neighborhood and the special character of Coconut Grove,” she said. “Once we formulate those plans, we look forward to reaching out to the community.”

Clearly, Berkley and Berkowitz have the financial resources for a major redevelopment in Coconut Grove. The question is how they navigate the concerns of residents. Many people in the neighborhood are concerned about gentrification squeezing out longtime residents.

As for the bankruptcy case, Russin said the majority of creditors were repaid by the proceeds of the bankruptcy auction. Two banks were paid in full, and a third creditor agreed to a negotiated settlement for a reduced amount. However, the new property owner will have to resolve the code violations alleged by the city, Russin added. A few of the lots have older residential buildings.

Click here for the original article.

Bruce Berkowitz and billionaire W.R. Berkley buy Coconut Grove site

They paid $5.4M for six properties at bankruptcy auction

By Katherine Kallergis

 A company led by billionaire William Berkley and Bruce Berkowitz of Fairholme Holdings just picked up pieces of an assemblage in west Coconut Grove.

B and B Group Properties LLC paid $5.4 million for six lots totaling about an acre at a bankruptcy auction on Tuesday, according to attorneys Dan Gonzalez and Peter Russin, partners at MelandRussin and Budwick. They represented the seller, Nassau Development of Village West Corp. and Grand Abbaco Development of Village West Corp.

The court appointed Stearns Weaver attorney Drew M. Dillworth as trustee of the bankruptcy estate. Cori Lopez-Castro of KozyakTropin Throckmorton LLP represented the buyers.

Lopez-Castro said Berkley and Berkowitz have no immediate plans for the properties, which were part of a bigger, roughly 30-parcel assemblage in the West Grove. Berkowitz is an equity fund manager and Berkley is founder and chairman of the insurance giant W.R. Berkley Corporation.

The properties sold were: 3364, 3384, 3441 and 3461 Grand Avenue, and 3400 and 3412 Florida Avenue.

Other bidders included a partnership between David Martin’s Terra and Michael Comras, and Orlando Benitez Jr., one of the lenders who settled with the trust. BankUnited and Wilmington Trust were the lead lenders.

The trustee, Dillworth, tried to arrange a deal for the bigger assemblage before heading to auction with the six parcels, Russin said.

Terra offered to pay about $35 million for the bigger assemblage last year, but pulled out due to environmental concerns.

Records show the Nassau and Abbaco LLCs are controlled by Julio Marrero, Rosa Marrero, Phillip Muskat and Benitez. A bigger sale has been held up by infighting among the partners. Benitez, who reportedly stated that he brought Terra to the deal, tried to stop that sale last year. Marrero called him a “rogue stockholder,” the Miami Herald previously reported.

Click here for the original article.

Abogados cubano americanos tienden la mano a migrantes de otros países latinos

CABA pro bono comenzó ayudando a cubanos en los años noventa, pero ahora está virtualmente dedicada a ofrecer ayuda legal gratuita a víctimas de tráfico, niños no acompañados y otros migrantes de diversos países

By Pilar Marrero

La pequeña oficina legal que en los años 90 abrió en Miami para ayudar a cubanos con el inicio de la política “pie seco, pie mojado”, esahora un bufete con seis abogados de tiempo completo que dedican buena parte de su tiempo a ayudar sin costo a todo tipo de clientes, incluyendo a muchos centroamericanos y latinos de otras nacionalidades.

CABA Pro Bono es un proyecto de la Barra de Abogados Cubano Americanos y el año pasado realizó hasta 3 millones de dólares en asistencia legal gratis para los clientes. El proyecto nació y continúa funcionando como una oficina legal que asiste en forma gratuita a quienes no pueden pagar su representación legal.

Javier Lopez, actual presidente del proyecto y socio en el bufete legal de Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton en el sur de la Florida, dijo a La Opinión que la comunidad legal cubanoamericana responde a la necesidad de ofrecer asistencia a personas de cualquier país que no pueden pagar un abogado.

“CabaPro Bono representa a muchos individuos y familias que no tienen recursos”, dijo López en una entrevista. “Desafortunadamente, en Miami tenemos un gran problema con el tráfico humano y sexual. También  asistimos a niños no acompañados de cualquier país. Imagínese ser un niño llegando a estepaís sin sus padres ni familias y tener que navegar este sistema legal”.

Los cubanos han tenido una situación privilegiada en las leyes migratorias de Estados Unidos desde hace décadas, desde que el Acta de Ajuste Cubano de 1966 convirtió el estatus de refugiado de los cubanos en un camino a la residencia permanente y la ciudadanía.

No ha sido así para millones de otros inmigrantes latinos incluyendo cientos de miles de centroamericanos y haitianos, entre otros, que han venido como refugiados y que estarían a punto de perder sue status temporal por medio del TPS.

Un caso que atendió la organización fue el de Elmer, un joven salvadoreño que vino a Estados Unidos tratando de reunirse con su papá, que lo abandonó a los 3 años.  Cuando este lo rechazó, el joven buscó ayuda legal pero no podía pagar lo que le pedían. “Un día en la corte conocí a alguien de CABA pro bono y me dijeron que podían ayudarme gratis”, dice el jovenen un video que está en la página de la organización.

López indica que la organización “está dispuesta a ayudar a quien lo necesite”. La única restricción es geográfica, ya que el bufete solo atiende a personas en el sur de la Florida.

“CABA Pro bono está dispuesto a ayudar a todos esos individuos que no tienen recursos. Podemos considerar una demanda para proteger y ayudar a las familias y usar diversos vehículos migratorios y que usamos todos los días”, dijo López. “Yo personalmente estoy dispuesto a ayudar a cualquier persona que me pidaayuda”.

El abogado, que ha sido galardonado con numerosos premios por su abogado filantrópico, ha trabajado con políticos republicanos, incluyendo como interno del procurador Alberto González durante el gobierno de George W. Bush y en la oficina del congresista Lincoln Diaz Balart.

López, sin embargo, es muy crítico de la actual administración en la Casa Blanca respecto a su trato de los inmigrantes y a la reciente decisión de TPS de suspender el programa para los Nicaragüenses.

“El hecho de que solo hayan dicho que lo cancelaban y que no hayan presentado ningún tipo de documentación sobre el porqué se tomó la decisión es problemático. Se supone que Trump había dicho que su gobierno sería “transparente”, dijo López. “Yo pienso que algunas organizaciones van a tratar de averiguar el por qué se tomó esa decisión”.

Entretanto, López invitó a inmigrantes en Miami con la necesidad de representación y que no pueden pagársela a comunicarse con CABA Pro bono al teléfono 305-646-0046 o info@cabaprobono.com

Click here for the original article.

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We Are All Seeds of Immigrants (Video)

By J. Albert Diaz

Nations attempt to curb migration, but the seeds of newcomers multiply. They continue to sprout and blossom in a nation of immigrants. Javier Lopez, a partner with Kozyak, Tropin & Throckmorton in Coral Gables, is one of those seeds. The first-generation, U.S.-born son of Cuban parents shares his family’s plight and how it’s helped shape his life and law practice.

Click here for the original article.

Women Empowering Each Other to Strengthen Israel

September 4, 2019

Maia Aron conveys her love for Israel and women empowering each other to strengthen Israel.

Click here for original source.

Fidget spinners and squishies: some Toys ‘R’ Us toymakers cut ties

(Reuters) – This summer, toy supplier Product Launchers delivered 100,000 specially ordered DC Comics fidget spinners to Toys ‘R’ Us, unaware that the biggest U.S. toy store chain was in financial trouble.

Now Product Launchers, which supplies other novelty items like squishies from five toymakers to Toy ‘R’ Us, expects it will not be paid for the $500,000 fidget spinner order and other items following the chain’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing on Sept. 19, Product Launchers Chief Executive Linda Parry Murphy told Reuters.

“These toymakers were very reliant on Toys ‘R’ Us. It’s their primary account, or the account that they were leaning on to make inroads in the toy industry, looking at the long term down the road,” Parry Murphy said.

“But we’ve made a decision not to sell to Toys moving forward.”

Meanwhile Barbie maker Mattel Inc (MAT.O), toy and board game company Hasbro Inc (HAS.O) and other large vendors like Lego could get full payment after Toys ‘R’ Us asked a bankruptcy judge to approve $325 million of special financing to pay top suppliers owed before the Chapter 11 filing.

The unequal vendor treatment is not unusual in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but it shows the tough decisions vendors face when retailers file for bankruptcy, as dozens have in recent years, succumbing to competition on price and convenience from Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O).

The beneficiaries of the financing package are still unknown, but smaller vendors like Product Launchers do not expect to make the list. Its claim tops $1 million but the amount is well below the $2.5 million to $135 million listed as Toys ‘R’ Us’ 50 largest claims.

Toy ‘R’ Us declined to comment on specifics about its relationship with Product Launchers or its other vendors.

Toys ‘R’ Us spokeswoman Nicole Hayes said in an email: “So far, we have seen great support from our vendors and look forward to continuing working with them for many years to come.”

She said the company will rely on $2 billion in new financing to fund operations.

TOUGH CHOICES

Hundreds of vendors have faced similar concerns in their dealings with bankrupt retailers such as Sports Authority and hhgregg, which ended up going out of business. Toys ‘R’ Us is an extraordinary case, retail consultants said, because of the large number of toy vendors it relies on to fill its big-box stores.

Typically in bankruptcy proceedings, even small vendors like Product Launchers can expect to receive payment for orders made after a bankruptcy filing, but not for past-due bills. As a result, Product Launchers is ending ties with the toy chain.

“We’ve taken down all connections to them,” said Parry Murphy. “I would rather focus on retailers that have strong financials and that we have a good comfort level about doing long-term business with.”

At this point, she thinks Toys ‘R’ Us is too far behind the curve to catch up with deep-pocketed competitors like Amazon and Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N).

HOT ITEMS

The loss of Product Launchers and other vendors, coming on the verge of the holiday season when Toys ‘R’ Us generates about 40 percent of annual sales, shows one of the risks facing the big toy retailer during bankruptcy.

If consumers discover the chain is not stocking a hot seasonal item, they will not visit its stores or website, Toys ‘R’ Us said in court filings.

Toys ‘R’ Us relies on hundreds of small vendors to give its stores the appearance of plenty.

“Your store won’t be attractive with just Mattel and Lego,” said Israel Shaked of the Michel-Shaked Group consultancy.

Retail specialists agreed that the 2017 holiday season could determine the fate of many brick-and-mortar retailers that have struggled to remain relevant in a growing era of e-commerce.

“This holiday season will be a true litmus test for the in-store experience,” said bankruptcy lawyer Corali Lopez-Castro. “The products have to be exciting and worthy of visiting the store or online. But really you want people in the store. That’s where they can pick up the widget, the Lego, and the Barbie.”

Toys ‘R’ Us’ success in retaining vendors likely will hinge on confidence in its turnaround plan, dubbed “Project Sunrise,” which envisions improved and integrated online and in-store shopping experiences.

Michael Araten, the chief executive of creative construction company K‘NEX, is optimistic.

“The potential upside is massive,” Araten said, adding that Toys ‘R’ Us would emerge from bankruptcy a “nimbler and stronger company that delights kids for generations.”

Click here for the original article.

Fidget spinners and squishies: some Toys ‘R’ Us toymakers cut ties

By Tracy Rucinski

 (Reuters) – This summer, toy supplier Product Launchers delivered 100,000 specially ordered DC Comics fidget spinners to Toys ‘R’ Us, unaware that the biggest U.S. toy store chain was in financial trouble.

Now Product Launchers, which supplies other novelty items like squishies from five toymakers to Toy ‘R’ Us, expects it will not be paid for the $500,000 fidget spinner order and other items following the chain’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing on Sept. 19, Product Launchers Chief Executive Linda Parry Murphy told Reuters.

“These toymakers were very reliant on Toys ‘R’ Us. It’s their primary account, or the account that they were leaning on to make inroads in the toy industry, looking at the long term down the road,” Parry Murphy said.

“But we’ve made a decision not to sell to Toys moving forward.”

Meanwhile Barbie maker Mattel Inc (MAT.O), toy and board game company Hasbro Inc (HAS.O) and other large vendors like Lego could get full payment after Toys ‘R’ Us asked a bankruptcy judge to approve $325 million of special financing to pay top suppliers owed before the Chapter 11 filing.

The unequal vendor treatment is not unusual in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but it shows the tough decisions vendors face when retailers file for bankruptcy, as dozens have in recent years, succumbing to competition on price and convenience from Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O).

The beneficiaries of the financing package are still unknown, but smaller vendors like Product Launchers do not expect to make the list. Its claim tops $1 million but the amount is well below the $2.5 million to $135 million listed as Toys ‘R’ Us’ 50 largest claims.

Toy ‘R’ Us declined to comment on specifics about its relationship with Product Launchers or its other vendors.

Toys ‘R’ Us spokeswoman Nicole Hayes said in an email: “So far, we have seen great support from our vendors and look forward to continuing working with them for many years to come.”

She said the company will rely on $2 billion in new financing to fund operations.

TOUGH CHOICES

Hundreds of vendors have faced similar concerns in their dealings with bankrupt retailers such as Sports Authority and hhgregg, which ended up going out of business. Toys ‘R’ Us is an extraordinary case, retail consultants said, because of the large number of toy vendors it relies on to fill its big-box stores.

Typically in bankruptcy proceedings, even small vendors like Product Launchers can expect to receive payment for orders made after a bankruptcy filing, but not for past-due bills. As a result, Product Launchers is ending ties with the toy chain.

“We’ve taken down all connections to them,” said Parry Murphy. “I would rather focus on retailers that have strong financials and that we have a good comfort level about doing long-term business with.”

At this point, she thinks Toys ‘R’ Us is too far behind the curve to catch up with deep-pocketed competitors like Amazon and Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N).

HOT ITEMS

The loss of Product Launchers and other vendors, coming on the verge of the holiday season when Toys ‘R’ Us generates about 40 percent of annual sales, shows one of the risks facing the big toy retailer during bankruptcy.

If consumers discover the chain is not stocking a hot seasonal item, they will not visit its stores or website, Toys ‘R’ Us said in court filings.

Toys ‘R’ Us relies on hundreds of small vendors to give its stores the appearance of plenty.

“Your store won’t be attractive with just Mattel and Lego,” said Israel Shaked of the Michel-Shaked Group consultancy.

Retail specialists agreed that the 2017 holiday season could determine the fate of many brick-and-mortar retailers that have struggled to remain relevant in a growing era of e-commerce.

“This holiday season will be a true litmus test for the in-store experience,” said bankruptcy lawyer Corali Lopez-Castro. “The products have to be exciting and worthy of visiting the store or online. But really you want people in the store. That’s where they can pick up the widget, the Lego, and the Barbie.”

Toys ‘R’ Us’ success in retaining vendors likely will hinge on confidence in its turnaround plan, dubbed “Project Sunrise,” which envisions improved and integrated online and in-store shopping experiences.

Michael Araten, the chief executive of creative construction company K‘NEX, is optimistic.

“The potential upside is massive,” Araten said, adding that Toys ‘R’ Us would emerge from bankruptcy a “nimbler and stronger company that delights kids for generations.”

Click here for the original article.

Lawyers battle addiction and depression, too. Now they’re starting to talk about it

During its annual luncheon on Friday, August 25, 2017, at the Biltmore Hotel, the Cuban American Bar Association featured Brian Cuban, a Dallas attorney and brother of Mark Cuban, to talk about his personal journey with addiction, eating disorders, depression and suicide attempts. Cuban said it was important to have difficult conversations as the rate of suicides among attorneys is growing.

Click here to read the full article.

If you or someone you know is considering self-harm, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 800-273-8255