Trevi Retail’s Buying Spree Was Perhaps ‘Too Good to Be True’
Al Barbarino March 12, 2013, 11:43 a.m.
A retail powerhouse that seemingly materialized from thin air last summer has reportedly placed its CEO on administrative leave for alleged embezzlement, surprising many – but not all – brokers.
Trevi Retail placed its founder and CEO Rockie Gajwani on administrative leave after he allegedly embezzled up to $2 million in funds from the firm’s financial partner, Principal Enterprise Capital, a subsidiary of the Iowa-based financial services firm Principal Financial Group, sources told The Real Deal.
“It’s shocking,” one broker told The Commercial Observer, reacting to the news. “I didn’t see it coming.”
Trevi Retail has been one of the most active players in the New York City market in the last 18 months, spending more than $200 million on retail and mixed-use properties, and Mr. Gajwani recently boasting that he hoped to build his assets up to $1 billion.
“It sounded a little good to be true,” said another broker. “They were just buying a ton of stuff so rapidly, which, again, is usually a sign that something is too good to be true.”
But, he added, “They are good guys. It didn’t seem like anything strange was going on.”
Trevi Retail burst onto the scene last summer as their acquisitions began to stretch into the dozens and high-profile buys, like the $40 million pickup of the retail space at The Cammeyer in the Flatiron District, put the company on the retail map.
Its recent acquisitions include the $18 million purchase of a five-story building at 785 Madison Avenue; and a two-building Upper West Side rental package with 3,300 square feet of retail and a 27,000-square-foot ground floor space at 650 Sixth Avenue.
Mr. Gajwani had previously held posts at Forest City Ratner and Vornado Realty Trust before founding Trevi Retail in 2011, joined by company CIO Johnny McCarthy, who sources told TRD would likely be Mr. Gajwani’s successor.
Messages left by The Commercial Observer on Mr. Gajwani’s office phone were not returned in time for publication.