Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

July 1, 2013

Empire State Bidding War?

By David Reiss

I was quoted in a Law360 Story on the ongoing Empire State Building saga, Empire State Bids Soar Over Approaching REIT Deal (behind a paywall).  It reads in part:

the bidders that have come out of the woodwork since Schron’s left-field offer may be banking on the assumption that Malkin and its shareholders could be willing to part with the iconic skyscraper in an all-cash deal that would avoid some of the drama associated with the REIT proposal.

“The owners … may lose the prestige by losing control of the Empire State Building, but they may end up making more money,” said David Reiss, a professor of real estate law at Brooklyn Law School, on Friday. “They may be more than happy to sell to the highest bidder if they’re going to get more than what the REIT would get them for it.”

The bidders appeared to think the unhappy shareholders would find value in their offers as well.

In connection with his bid, Schron agreed to enter into a contract with Malkin with a $50 million nonrefundable deposit immediately and to close the all-cash deal in 90 days. As part of the deal, investors would be able to choose to remain invested in the building and receive a membership interest in Schron’s Cammeby’s International Group in lieu of cash, according to an offer letter revealed last week.

The offers that followed — one from Thor Equities that was “north of $2.1 billion,” one from a group of investors including Phil Pilevsky and Joseph Tabak, and another from an unnamed bidder — reportedly offered similar assurances.

In addition to the chance to own one of the most famous buildings in the world, experts say those who have thrown their hats into the sudden bidding war for the skyscraper are also keen to take advantage of its retail potential.

“I think there’s a belief that this is a valuable property, and that particularly the retail portion of it — and to some extent the office portion too — is undervalued,” Israel said. “I think they feel they could do a major upgrade.”

Those who may have been previously interested in the building also now have the assurance, after a May court ruling in one of the lawsuits over the proposed deal, that verified the legality of a controversial $100-per-share buyout provision, according to Reiss.

Potential buyers now know “that the buyout provision is valid and … that a good bid can get the requisite votes,” he said.

An appeal of the ruling on the buyout provision remains pending.

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