FLUSHING AWAY ALLEN STANFORD’S LEGACY AT 5050 WESTHEIMER Noting the extensive changes to the office building at 5050 Westheimer across the street from the Galleria that once served as headquarters for the Stanford Financial Group but has since been taken over completely by real estate firm Keller Williams, Real Estate Bisnow’s Catie Dixon zeroes in on the big news: “Stanford’s gigantic personal bathroom is gone.” Reuters reporter Chris Baltimore described the rarely seen first-floor spectacle back in 2009, after an exclusive crime-scene tour, as “a chamber of black granite and mahogany, with a gigantic mirror and granite countertop, flanked with shelves of fluffy white towels and toiletries, including a bottle of ‘Brilliant Brunette’ shampoo.” Notable features: the separate black-toilet room, the huge walk-in shower, and the blank door next to it which served as Sir Allen’s private escape route to the parking deck. Stanford’s entire personal magnet-key-access-only first-floor domain has now been replaced by the offices of KW-affiliated lender and title companies; the Gensler redo of the building has kept some of the green marble but added some red walls, replacing stone-carved messages like Stanford’s HARD WORK, CLEAR VISION, VALUE for the CLIENT with “inspirational and wacky sayings like ‘Complaining=garbage magnet.'” [Real Estate Bisnow; Reuters; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Wikimedia Commons
ALLEN STANFORD’S NEXT CENTURY R. Allen Stanford, the former Houston real estate investor who made it to the big time before being convicted earlier this year of heading up a $7 billion Ponzi scheme, could be spending the next turn-of-the-century in federal prison — if he works it right. The former chairman of the Stanford Financial Group has been imprisoned since June 2009. In a Downtown Houston courtroom today, after Stanford maintained he “didn’t defraud anybody,” U.S. District Judge David Hittner sentenced himÂ to 110 years. [L.A. Times; ; previously on Swamplot]
KELLER WILLIAMS’S NEW OFFICES ARE IN THE OLD STANFORD FINANCIAL GROUP BUILDING “To this day, people still refer to 1400 Smith as ‘the old Enron building,’ even though the company collapsed more than a decade ago and Chevron now owns the property. Will 5050 Westheimer face a similar fate? That’s the building that housed Stanford Financial Group, whose founder, R. Allen Stanford, is awaiting a jury verdict on federal charges that he ran a $7 billion investment fraud. . . . Bruce Kink of Keller Williams said the company chose the space for its prime location directly across from the Galleria mall. He doesn’t focus on who used to occupy it. ‘They removed the name out front,’ Kink said. ‘To us it’s 5050 Westheimer.'” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Wikimedia Commons
ALLEN STANFORD’S UPTOWN STAGECRAFT “The place was always odd. There was always more elegance, more shine . . . and yet there werenâ€™t always people to fill the desks. There was more real estate than people. There was just such pomp. It felt like 1955, the way people were dressed and were ushered in and offered coffee in fine china. They had a private dining room â€” everything was over the top . . . and youâ€™re like, OK, maybe some of these enterprises are making some money. In retrospect, it was like a Hollywood town. It was like the front, but if you peek around the back, itâ€™s just two-by-fours holding it up.” — Houston videographer Dave Henry, who plans to craft a documentary using footage he created for the Stanford Financial Group, describing the company’s former headquarters on Westheimer. [Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot] Still: Magpie River Films
Workers began taking down the engraved stone Stanford Financial Group sign embedded in the facade of the company’s former headquarters building at 5050 Westheimer last Friday, reader Andrew Tyler reports with this tweeted photo. Federal law enforcement officials raided the building and Stanford Financial offices in Galleria Tower II almost 3 years ago; company founder Allen Stanford was arrested 4 months later. In July of 2010, Woodlands-based Black Forest Ventures bought the 3-story, 71,000-sq.-ft. structure across the street from the Galleria for $12.5 million.
Photo: Andrew Tyler
What galls jailed billionaire Allen Stanford even more than having to sit through the court-ordered sell-off of his entire hard-earned real estate portfolio? It’s that it’s all happening in a down market! Stanford’s lawyers have been arguing in court that liquidating the accused huckster’s properties while real-estate prices are depressed isn’t such a smart idea. A good $9 million of the $12.2 million the folks behind the Black Forest Cafe are paying to buy the clunkily ornate former Stanford Financial Group headquarters building at 5050 Westheimer across from the Galleria, for example, will go to pay off the property’s mortgage and back interest. What’s the guy gonna have left to live on once he’s acquitted of all those ridiculous Ponzi scheme charges? But an attorney for the receiver managing the sales says he’s just trying to save money for the estate. Next Stanford property on the block: The former Stanford Aviation hangar (above) at 100 Jim Davidson Dr. near Sugar Land Regional Airport, at an auction this week.
Always on the lookout for striking images, art blogger Robert Boyd discovers an intriguing pattern in the map included in the listing of the nearby Fabulous Flea property discussed a couple of days ago on Swamplot. He asks:
Do you think the property lines of of those houses were deliberately designed to look like a man? (Sort of like the Vitruvian Man, don’t you think?)
Boyd dubs the pattern — found on the lower portion of the Upper Kirby blocks surrounded by Elbert, Bammel, and Sackett — “Elbert Street Man.”
But there’s a more direct reference. The anatomical property lines are the mark in Houston’s real-estate landscape of a much more well-known figure:
Allen R. Stanford.
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COMMENT OF THE DAY: INSIDE THE STANFORD FINANCIAL GROUP OFFICES AT 5050 WESTHEIMER “I have been through this building and it is decorated entirely in a (expensive) mahogany-green marble color scheme, put in place about 10 years ago. There is a large Palladian skylight with an ornate stair connecting the upper levels. Sir Allenâ€™s office was huge with floor to ceiling wood paneling with some impressive wood coffers on the ceiling. Allen wanted all the offices around the world to look the same, so they all used this exact same color scheme. The furniture was of the not-so-inspiring big heavy mahagony type and the art on the walls were bad Audubon print reproductions. What was so wierd about the office was how empty it was. This was 2002 and there was almost noone in the building, despite the extreme amount of money that he spent renovating it. There were rows and rows of empty offices and the parking garage had the same empty feeling. There was a private dining room and a commercial kitchen in the building also, with a full time chef (food was great!). The whole building seemed as if it was supposed to present an image of old money grace and prestige, but somehow, it just wasnâ€™t quite right.” [mt, commenting on Westheimer Office Building and All: Allen Stanford Says Sell!]
Having trouble keeping track of all the homes, condos, and apartments financier, philanthropist, and accused Ponzi schemer Robert Allen Stanford had set up for his relations in Houston? With all the recent news reports, following it all can get confusing.
We hadn’t encountered a comprehensive account from local media coverage. But we hadn’t checked the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, either. It turns out that reporter Patsy R. Brumfield — who is currently in the throes of withdrawal from a 6-year-long Nexium habit — had put together this quick survey of the sites of Stanford’s Houston-area comings and goings for the Tupelo, Mississippi, paper last August:
[Stanford] and his wife, Susan, now estranged, lived in the upscale Tanglewood area at 5476 Holly Springs Drive. The Spanish-style home, with red-tile roof and white stucco exterior, looks comfortable but not particularly impressive among a neighborhood of near-mansions.
His fiancÃ©eâ€™, Andrea Stoelker, and Stanford maintained a home in the multi-storied Museum Tower at 4899 Montrose Blvd. Stoelker still lives in No. 1304 while a federal court document says Stanfordâ€™s son and daughter, Ross and Allena Stanford, and their mother, Louise Sage, who moved to Houston from Dallas, are living in the same apartment building in No. 1905.
Another reason for Stanford to ride those Museum Tower elevators:
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That condo in The Huntingdon belonging to Ken and Linda Lay may soon have company on the market. Randi Stanford, daughter of alleged swindler Robert Allen Stanford — who’s lived in a 2,803-sq.-ft. condo in the same highrise at 2121 Kirby for the last 3 years — has agreed to vacate her unit by the end of March.
The agreement ends a longstanding dispute. The court-appointed receiver for the assets of the Stanford Financial Group will put the unit up for sale.
According to HCAD records, Unit 16NE is owned by an LLC whose address is listed as 5050 Westheimer Rd. — the former headquarters of Stanford Financial Group. Writes the Chronicle‘s Mary Flood:
A report by an accountant working for the receiver showed that Allen Stanford paid for the condo withâ€¨ $1.3 million in early 2006. It shows that at least $44,000 paid for condo maintenance came directly from company funds, and that $34,000 of that came from the certificates of deposits issued by Stanfordâ€™s bank in Antigua that are at the heart of the alleged fraud.
Photo of The Huntingdon: HAR
The 3-story, 62,000-sq.-ft. office building across from the Galleria that was once the headquarters for the Stanford Financial Group will at last go up for sale. Accused Ponzi schemer Robert Allen Stanford, awaiting his trial in a Conroe jail cell, had opposed the sale of any real estate owned by the corporations he controlled until 2 weeks ago, but subsequently changed his mind. A court ruling last week makes it official.
The office building at 5050 Westheimer sits on 1.6 acres and includes a 285-space parking garage. Also to be sold by Dallas court-appointed receiver Ralph Janvey in “stalking horse auctions”: Stanford’s Sugar Land airplane hangar, as well as other properties in Michigan, Tennessee, North Carolina, Mississippi, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
What about those condos in the Stanford Lofts Downtown?
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TAKARA SO AND BEYOND: MORE OF ALLEN STANFORD’S HOUSTON REAL ESTATE VENTURES Long before the Stanford Lofts debacle, Guardian International Investment Services — Allen Stanford’s former real-estate company — bought and sold or developed a number of Houston properties. Nancy Sarnoff follows the trail: “The properties include the 77-unit Takara So at 1919 W. Main and the 66-unit Severne at 7650 Moonmist. They were later sold, according to records from the Harris County Appraisal District. In 1989, Stanford built the patio home project [on Mimosa Drive, just east of Kirby and south of San Felipe], which he named Stanford Oaks, and hired [Martha] Turnerâ€™s company as the exclusive marketing agent to sell the homes. They started at about $400,000. Turner said the company didnâ€™t have to borrow money to get it built. ‘They had their own money. They were financing their own stuff,’ she said. A couple years later, Guardian started a new enclave of homes called Leâ€¨ Voisinage on Bammel Lane south of West Alabama.” [Houston Chronicle]
Allen Stanford’s international “banking” empire is falling apart. How’s his work as a Houston real estate developer holding up?
Stanford Development Corporation still owns a couple of units on the top floor of the Stanford Lofts, the 5-story East Downtown condo building topped with a starred tiara that the company completed in 2002, just a few blocks east of Minute Maid Park. But owning the condos didn’t prevent the condo owners association from filing a construction-defect lawsuit against the Stanford Lofts developers and builders in 2007, charging Stanford Development with “breach of contract, Deceptive Trade Practices, breach of warranty, fraud, and negligent design, construction, and supervision.”
The summary of problems with the building included in the original complaint is 9 pages long, and includes failure to meet building codes, wall cracks and leaks, structural movement, and a series of defects causing continuing problems with water infiltration. The repair estimate: more than $2 million.
The case has dragged on for some time. Attorneys for the Stanford Condo Owners Association complained that Stanford Development was dragging its feet, arguing last year in response to a stay request:
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From the New York Times website this morning:
Shortly after 10 a.m. Central time, about 40 police officers and other law enforcement officials simultaneously entered Stanford Groupâ€™s two office buildings in Houston. Many of the law enforcement personnel carried large black briefcases. Stanford groupâ€™s headquarters are in two offices in Houston, one within a tower of the Houston Galleria shopping mall, and the other across the street.
Photo of Stanford Financial Group Offices, 5050 Westheimer: Stanford Financial Group
HOW ALLEN STANFORD MADE THOSE FIRST HUNDRED MILLIONS The chairman of Stanford Financial Group — whose operations have recently caught the attention of the SEC, FBI, and IRS — romped in the wreckage of early 1980s Houston real estate: “Stanford and his father went around to the presidents of various banks, offering those seeking liquidity an easy out: ‘For a period of 28 months we were probably the only people in Harris County buying real estate.’ They ended up owning dozens of properties, including a 256-unit apartment complex they bought from a pension fund for $970,000, or $3,800 per unit–this at a time when the median home price in Houston was $68,900. Over the next ten years, as the economy and real estate began to recover, Stanford and his father made what he describes as several hundred million (aftertax) dollars.” [Forbes]