NEW YORK CITY-In a decision released this week, the New York State Court of Appeals has let stand a 2001 arbitration panel decision that denied Wien & Malkin, LLP’s request to remove Helmsley-Spear as managing agent. The legal battle focuses on four Garment Center properties and the leasing of the Empire State Building.Since the panel’s March 30, 2001 ruling, Helmsley-Spear, Inc. has been trying to confirm the decision while Wien & Malkin has been trying to vacate it.However, despite, the real estate involved, Anthony Malkin tells the issue is a legal one, not a real estate one and calls the recent court ruling a nonstory. “This is just another step in the process,” Malkin, president of W&M Properties, explains. “This is not a real estate story. This is a legal story that [impacts] a small and discrete number of properties.”Helmsley-Spear has no comment on the decision.

The ruling released on Feb. 21 is just the latest round in the process which dates back several years. According to court papers, the battle began in 1997 when Wien & Malkin, LLP took steps to remove Helmsley-Spear, Inc. as the managing agent of 11 New York City properties, involving “the operating entity tier of eight properties and three partnerships with single tiers which control three properties.” Wien & Malkin was the representative and designee of ownership interests in the buildings, provided legal services such as drafting leases and performed administrative tasks. As the court papers state, Peter Malkin, chairman of Wien & Malkin, requested that the partners in 200 Fifth Avenue Associates, Fisk Building and Lincoln Building Associates “authorize him to terminate Helmsley-Spear without cause and retain a new managing agent.” In August 1997, three of the partnerships voted to remove Helmsley-Spear without cause, the papers add. In return Helmsley-Spear got a stay and on Sept. 8, 1997, the Supreme Court granted its motion to compel arbitration. In March 2001, the arbitration panel denied Wien & Malkin’s request to remove Helmsley-Spear as managing agent for cause or without cause. In response, Helmsley-Spear moved to confirm the award as Wien & Malkin moved to vacate it. An Appellate Division subsequently found, by a 5-to-0 vote, that the arbitration panel erred in making its decision. Helmsley-Spear then appealed that ruling.

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