Chagit Sofiev Leviev is the daughter of billionaire Israeli real estate and diamond oligarch Lev Leviev.
Married with young children, she is also the Chief Executive Officer of Africa Israel USA, the US subsidiary of the Africa Israel Group, and a job to which her father appointed her last August.
With real estate investments in Florida and in New York Africa Israel also has a 50% interest in a New York diamond house Taly Diamonds. This holding may be her own personally though, and in any case is expressed in the name of LGC USA Holdings Inc., of which she is President.
The diamond industry is one that is uniquely built on personal trust, often maintained over decades and across generations between a small number of very tightly knit groups of families.
With 10, 000 diamonds in its inventory, according to the Taly Diamond’s web site it is a major operation. But when partners fall out, things can sometimes become quite ugly.
Taly is in the process of winding down its business, though it is not entirely clear why, and last week the company filed suit in Delaware Chancery Court in Wilmington against LGC.
The Taly manager Yaron Turgeman is claiming of Chagit Sofiev Leviev as follows: “Through LGC, Chagit Leviev is ‘seeking to extract undeserved consideration from Taly, ‘ which has thousands of diamonds, through a ‘fire sale’.”
Taly goes on to allege in the suit that Chagit Sofiev Leviev is interfering with the operations of the business, apparently by demanding that she sign all business checks. Further it is alleged in the suit that the LGC President wrongly raised suspicions about a person seen skulking down a back staircase carrying a ‘large brown paper bag, ‘ which turned out to be the Taly office manager simply taking checks to the company’s accountant.
Taly has therefore sought an injunction from the Delaware court to allow it to control the wind-down of the business itself, and to exclude LGC from the process
Well of course there are always two sides to a given story, especially where there are litigants to a dispute, and in this case the Leviev Group a few days later has now provided its own quite comprehensive response to the allegations as follows:
“A few days ago, the Leviev Group, through LGC USA Holdings and its President, Chagit Sofiev-Leviev, petitioned a court in New York for temporary relief against a company she jointly owns in a business partnership with Mr. Yaron Turgeman in the diamond industry in New York, as part of the liquidation of the joint company.”
“Last Monday, in view of the evidence supplied by the Leviev Group against Turgeman, which shows that his aides were destroying and removing evidence from the company’s offices and carrying out suspicious activity at the company’s office and in its computers, while the office was closed, the court ordered, among other things, the replacement of the locks at the company’s office and forbade Turgeman and his aides from entering without an escort from the Leviev Group.”
“In response to the court decision, Turgeman filed various motions with the Delaware Chancery Court for an injunction against this temporary relief, and is trying to depict a non-existent reality. It is superfluous to say that these motions were dismissed.”
“The Leviev Group trusts the Israeli and US legal system and is confident that justice will be done.”
As CEO of Africa Israel USA, Chagit Sofiev-Leviev today manages assets including a retail condominium section of the Times Square Building in New York and the 67-story Casa Moderna building on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami Florida.
She took over Africa Israel USA at a critical time in its history, as it had incurred heavy losses on properties acquired during the last boom at prices that later headed for a severe correction.
The US operation today owns the 250, 000 square foot retail condominium base of 229 West 43rd Street, just west of Times Square, a property which used to be the headquarters of the New York Times before it moved to a new building. Africa Israel USA also today owns “Casa Moderna Hotel & Spa” at the Marquis Residences, a 67 storey luxury condominium building in downtown Miami in Florida.
Before the recession hit, in 2007 Africa Israel USA had also purchased the Clock Tower building at One Madison Avenue for US$200 million, intending to convert it into a hotel. When the market crashed they then sold it in 2011 for US$165 million, again cutting their losses.
It was in the same year 2007 that Africa Israel USA bought the former Times building, at precisely the peak of the real estate boom, ponying up US$525 million for it. When the financial crisis induced recession hit shortly afterward, again the company eventually cut their losses, selling the office portion of the 750, 000-square-foot building for US$160 million.
The retail portion of the space they have kept as an ongoing corporate asset however, and it has now been refinanced, by Chagit Sofiev Leviev herself since becoming CEO of the company. The business has started to improve there as well, with a number of new tenants being signed up lately.
“Chagit’s drive and determination are going to be instrumental in moving Africa Israel forward, ” said Damien Stein, Chief Operating Officer at Africa Israel USA, in a press statement when she was first appointed “She is a tremendous leader and we are thrilled to have her at the helm.”