Buyer sued over $53 million New York penthouse

Thu Sep 18, 2008 5:05pm EDT
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By Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The buyer of a $53.5 million penthouse apartment in New York's famed Plaza Hotel who sued, saying the apartment turned out to be "attic-like," is now being counter-sued for lying to get out of his contract.

Russian financier Andrei Vavilov sued the hotel, developers El-Ad Properties and brokers Stribling & Associates this month for breach of contract, fraud, deceptive trade practices and negligence. He demanded the return of his $10.7 million deposit and $30 million in damages.

Vavilov, who said he made the purchase based on a video, claimed that the apartment -- actually two separate penthouses built on top of the Plaza -- has small windows, low ceilings, obstructed views and ugly drainage grates.

But in a counter lawsuit filed on Wednesday in New York State Supreme Court, El-Ad Properties accused Vavilov of libel and filing a "sham" lawsuit. It is seeking $36 million in damages.

"These false and defamatory statements were made ... solely in an attempt to escape the unconditional obligation to purchase such condominium apartments," the El-Ad lawsuit said.

Vavilov and his wife, the Russian actress Maryana Tsaregradskaya, were concerned the penthouses were not large enough, it said.

Their "feigned dissatisfaction" about the condition of the apartment in fact reflected frustration that they were unable to buy additional Plaza penthouses and had been unable to combine the two penthouses, the lawsuit said.

In a statement, Vavilov's lawyer took issue with El-Ad's decision to refer to Vavilov by name, since he had not previously been publicly identified.   Continued...

<p>A man looks down a hallway during a tour of rooms inside "The Plaza" hotel as it re-opens following extensive renovations in New York March 1, 2008. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>