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Two Major Developers Square off in $160 Million Lawsuit Over Two Overtown Projects

MIAMI, Fl, April 22, 2020 – Waldman Barnett on behalf of prominent national developer R. Donahue “Don” Peebles is suing developer Michael Swerdlow for more than $160 million, alleging Swerdlow cheated Peebles and his real-estate partner Barron Channer out of a chance to develop two parcels in Miami’s Historic Overtown district, which development would have brought the area much needed revitalization.

In a 33-page complaint filed on March 26, 2020 in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, Waldman Barnett laid out an elaborate conspiracy conducted over several years to thwart Peebles’s plans to bring mixed-use projects to the chronically poor area.

The complaint alleges that Swerdlow secretly manipulated the building process with Keon Hardemon, a City of Miami commissioner and board chair of the Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency, and other CRA officials. Influenced by Hardemon’s lobbyist uncle Billy Hardemon, they set out to undermine the development accords Peebles had lawfully obtained and to install Swerdlow in his place, according to the complaint.

The complaint further details meetings to further the conspiracy in Swerdlow’s offices, the Ritz-Carlton in Coconut Grove and Harry’s Pizzeria in Miami’s Design District. Meanwhile, Peebles was proceeding in good faith to finalize the deals he had successfully negotiated after having prevailed in two separate above-board bidding processes, coming in first in each, based on the criteria for the bid.

On the other hand, it is alleged that Swerdlow, who did not bid on either project, and the CRA leveraged deadlines so that the CRA could terminate its agreements with Peebles and begin the bidding process anew with Swerdlow. Swerdlow clinched the deals in March 2018.

“Somehow,” the complaint states, “Swerdlow, who lacked the qualifications and resources” to complete the Overtown projects on his own, got his development agreements finalized in six months, “something the CRA could not do in three years with OGP,” Peebles’s Overtown Gateway Partners LLC. His company lost $100M in projected profits alone, the complaint states.

The case also made headlines in the South Florida Business Journal, the Real Deal, BISNOW, the Daily Business Review, the Miami Herald and Law360.

Peebles’s attorneys with Waldman Barnett Glen Waldman and Jeff Lam are pressing claims of breach of contract, tortious interference with a business relationship, conspiracy, and fraud in the inducement. They reserve the right to seek punitive damages at some future point in the litigation.

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