From left: James Vosotas and Branden Muhl, former partners who teamed up to renovate and reopen Hotel Greystone (Vos Hospitality, Mahaska, LoopNet)
South Beach hotel partner James Vosotas got slapped with an $18.9 million judgment in New York Supreme Court.
Judge Andrew Borrok’s ruling on Tuesday against Vosotas and his company, Vos Hospitality, marks a significant blow in his ongoing legal war against his former friend and development partner, Branden Muhl, CEO of Mahaska, a national bottling and distribution company based in Oskaloosa, Iowa.
“Our client is disappointed in the decision,” William Clayton, Vosota’s attorney, said in a text message. “He is considering all options, including an appeal.”
Vosotas and Muhl had teamed up to renovate and reopen Hotel Greystone, an Art Deco property at 1920 Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. The partnership came apart shortly after the hotel’s grand opening was short-circuited by business lockdowns during the early days of the pandemic in 2020.
Vos Hospitality bought the property in 2012 for $7.5 million. Muhl claims he helped finance the acquisition, according to court documents. The ownership of the hotel was subsequently transferred to Greystone Hospitality, whose investors include Vos Hospitality and entities managed by Muhl.
In a lawsuit filed in New York in March of last year, Muhl’s company, BBM3, which acquired a $36 million construction loan in 2017 that was provided to the entities that own and operate Hotel Greystone, alleged Vosotas failed to meet his obligations under the loan guarantees.
Six months later, Vosotas, Vos Hospitality and Greystone Hospitality sued Muhl, BBM3 and five Greystone-related entities in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. Vosotas alleges that Muhl is attempting a hostile takeover with the New York lawsuit. He also accused his former pal of purposely keeping the hotel padlocked for most of 2020 and 2021 in order to sabotage the partnership and wipe out Vosotas’ ownership stake in the property, the Miami-Dade lawsuit states.
In the New York case, Judge Borrok determined that BBM3 had established proof that Vosotas owes $18.9 million in loan guarantees. Borrok also dismissed Vosota’s defense that the New York Supreme Court did not have jurisdiction because he resides in Florida and Hotel Greystone is in Miami Beach. “He agreed to come to New York to litigate this dispute if necessary, and the agreement is valid,” Borrok wrote.
In a statement, Muhl’s attorney Jason Friedman said Borrok’s ruling is an important victory for his client. “The order clearly establishes that Mr. Vosotas breached the guarantees and must be held accountable to the lender,” Friedman said. “The lender fully intends to collect the judgment.”
Clayton, Vosotas’ attorney, noted that Greystone Hospitality, the hotel’s current ownership entity, is not a party to the New York lawsuit. “The Miami case against BBM3 will continue undaunted,” Clayton said.
In the Miami-Dade lawsuit, Judge William Thomas had initially appointed a receiver in August to take over management and operations of Hotel Greystone. But a few days later, after Muhl’s lawyers argued a receiver wasn’t necessary, Thomas rescinded his order. Instead, Thomas appointed a court monitor to keep tabs on Hotel Greystone’s finances and business operations.
After initially opening Hotel Greystone as an adults-only hotel around Super Bowl LIV weekend in early 2020, the property was forced to close in mid-March due to business lockdowns. Muhl and Vosotas accused each other of preventing the hotel from reopening once those lockdowns were lifted, court filings show.
In September, Hotel Greystone reopened with new management under Provincetown, Massachusetts-based Salt Hotels.