A vicious battle for control of a massive New York real estate empire has descended into a family feud that turned two pairs of siblings against each in a blizzard of back-stabbing allegations and legal actions.
The sprawling, Succession-like turf battle started as a fight between two infamous landlords and brothers, Arthur and Abe Haruvi, over the future of their 500-unit Manhattan kingdom, with each accusing the other of mismanagement or subterfuge.
In the latest twist of the knife, Arthur’s daughter, Michelle, has filed a court petition claiming she was iced out of the family business and evicted from her apartment after raising concerns about the business.
And things are getting very nasty: her father’s business partner, real estate magnate Peter Hungerford, claims it’s all a ploy for daddy’s money.
“Arthur wants his daughter to just quiet down and enjoy her cushy life in San Francisco and her $3 million town home that he bought her 10 years ago,” Hungerford told The Daily Beast.
“But Michelle doesn’t want that. Michelle wants control over the business that she did nothing to build or create or manage,” he added. “And she doesn’t like being told anything other than that.”
An attorney for Michelle, Michael Gordon, told The Daily Beast his client only wanted to obtain books and records that would “allow her to understand that is happening with these companies.”
“My client simply wants the truth to come out, is worried about the financial health of her family’s portfolio, and is concerned about the intentions and experience of those who seem to be making the decisions,” he said in an email.
Arthur, Abe, and attorneys representing them did not respond to requests for comment.
The Haruvi real estate business—a 31-building, $264 million portfolio managed by seven different entities—was for decades run by the Haruvi brothers. The pair became somewhat infamous in New York City in the 1990s for allegedly attempting to evict tenants in rent-controlled apartments in order to rent them for higher prices (though they both claimed their actions were “completely lawful and proper.”) Abe eventually retreated to Florida, where he was sued by his former housekeeper, who accused him and his wife of forcing her to share living quarters with their dogs, and was divorced by his wife, who claimed he hit and scratched her during an argument. (Abe denied both claims; the maid’s lawsuit was withdrawn and the criminal charges were eventually dropped.)
But the brothers turned out to be each other’s worst enemies, spawning years’ worth of litigation over the future of their business. Arthur Haruvi sued his brother in 2020, claiming he had mismanaged their properties and locked him out of the company’s books. Abe countersued, claiming it was he who lacked access to the documents and calling Arthur’s allegations “drivel” and “an insult to the intelligence of the court.”
When Arthur won access to the documents, he turned around and sued Abe again, accusing his brother of concocting a “nefarious plan” to “usurp total unfettered control” of one of their company’s assets. Abe responded by accusing Arthur’s older daughter, Aileen, of trying to wrest control of the business from him. The matter was eventually dropped.
Even as the brothers were battling, Arthur’s daughter, Michelle, was angling for her piece of the pie. In a petition filed last week in New York County Supreme Court, first reported by The Real Deal, she alleges that she and her father discussed the possibility of cutting out Abe and dividing the real estate companies between them as early as 2019. At the time, she said, her father agreed that if a split happened, she would take an “active role” in managing the business.
Instead, Michelle alleges, her father began secretly negotiating a deal to buy out his brother with the help of another man, real estate mogul Peter Hungerford, while Michelle was away living in San Francisco.
Michelle claims she only learned of the proposed deal at the end of 2020, when her sister Aileen told her their father was considering having Hungerford buy out Abe and take control of the business. When Michelle requested information about the proposed deal, she claims, Hungerford failed to turn over key financial documents. When she inquired again in early April 2021, she claims, Hungerford directed her mother and sister to tell her to stop asking about the deal. When she called her sister for updates later that month, she claims, Aileen started “shouting obscenities” at her.
In a phone call with The Daily Beast, Hungerford did not deny refusing to turn over documents to Michelle, but said he does not believe she is entitled to them as a partial shareholder.
“Michelle only has the…