‘Real Housewives’ broker Mauricio Umansky settles mansion lawsuit

Celebrity real estate agent Mauricio Umansky will not face a civil trial for allegedly violating his duties as a broker in the sale of a prominent Malibu hilltop mansion that he flipped for nearly $70 million.

Real estate investor Sam Hakim and his agent dropped their consolidated Superior Court lawsuits this month against Umansky, his development partner Mauricio Oberfeld and other defendants. The legal action accused the two men of conspiring to buy the mansion in 2016 for $32.5 million — despite an alleged higher offer from Hakim — so they could fix it up and sell it for a big profit.

Umansky and his luxury Beverly Hills real estate firm, the Agency, not only represented the buyer and seller in the transaction, but Umansky had a stake in the buyer’s limited liability company fronted by Oberfeld. The 2019 lawsuit sought at least $35 million in damages, or roughly the profit made flipping the property in 2017 to the heir of a Hong Kong drink manufacturer.

Jennifer Shakouri and Alan Hearty, attorneys for Hakim, a Beverly Hills resident who runs a family real estate investment firm, said in a statement that their client, who is Jewish, decided to “put this matter behind him” amid the war in Gaza.

“In light of current global events, including the shocking attack on the state of Israel on October 7, Mr. Hakim decided his time and energy would be better served on matters other than this litigation. This led him to resolve this matter,” said the statement, which noted that as part of the settlement Umansky agreed to give money to a “pro-Israel charitable organization.”

“Regarding the issue of wrongdoing by Mr. Umansky, the court records speak for themselves,” the statement concluded.

In an interview, Umansky, who is also Jewish, said the donation by himself and his brokerage was something he would have gladly done anyway. He declined to disclose the value of the donation. He said the decision by Hakim and his agent to drop the litigation was an indication of its lack of merit.

“At the end of the day, I believe that from the beginning I did not do anything wrong,” he said.

Hakim’s decision followed the production of text messages that had long been sought by the defendants in discovery. Texts between Hakim and his broker, Aitan Segal, suggested that Hakim was first made aware of the partnership that Umansky and Oberfeld had formed to buy and flip the property through a 2017 article — not one he read in 2018 as he had claimed.

Real estate investor Sam Hakim poses in front of the Malibu mansion whose $70-million sale prompted his lawsuit against Mauricio Umansky.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

The issue of when he first knew of Umansky’s involvement is relevant to how long he had to file the case before the statute of limitations expired. Attorneys for the defendants sought to have the case terminated over the delayed production of the texts; Judge Mark Epstein rejected that bid in an October decision while leaving open the possibility of monetary sanctions.

Jeremiah Reynolds, an attorney for Oberfeld and another defendant, Matt Dugally, who also was a member of the buyer’s group and owns a luxury home builder with Oberfeld, said in a statement that neither client paid Hakim “to settle this frivolous case against them.”

“Sam Hakim voluntarily dropped his lawsuit under threat of court ordered sanctions for his failure to turn over text messages that demonstrated his case never should have been filed,” the statement said.

The Hakim lawsuit was not the first filed against Umansky over the 16.5-acre Malibu compound, a conspicuous piece of real estate featuring a 15,000-square-foot mansion overlooking the city’s pier. The compound was featured on “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” a show featuring Umansky’s spouse Kyle Richards, when the broker — the star of his own Netflix reality show — was readying it for resale.

The estate was acquired in 2006 by Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the playboy son of the president of Equatorial Guinea. He was forced to sell the home in 2014 after the U.S. government filed an asset forfeiture case that accused him of buying the mansion, a jet and other luxury items with laundered funds generated by corrupt business dealings in his native country.

Umansky was hired by Nguema to conduct the sale, with the first $10.3 million in proceeds going to the U.S. government and the remainder for the benefit of the people of Equatorial Guinea. After it was reported in the media that Umansky was a member of the group that flipped the home in 2017 for $69.9 million, Nguema sued Umansky, accusing him of self-dealing that lowered the initial sale price.

Umansky reached a settlement with Nguema, who is no longer in the U.S., that provided $6.35 million to a healthcare nonprofit working in Equatorial Guinea, as part of the asset forfeiture case that wrapped up in 2021.

The Agency’s insurance company also sued after the brokerage filed an insurance claim to help fund the Nguema settlement. The insurer accused Umansky of a conflict of interest in the deals and sought to rescind the brokerage’s policy. An undisclosed settlement was reached.

Umansky said that he was unable to comment on those cases and settlements due to nondisclosure agreements.

At the same time, Hakim’s case had been wending its way through Los Angeles County Superior Court in Santa Monica, with voluminous filings by both sides. The original complaint accused Umansky, Oberfeld and other defendants of eight causes of action, including fraud, breaches of duty and negligent misrepresentation.

Not every allegation applied to every defendant, and over the years Epstein struck several, including the fraud allegation. A trial was set for next year on the remaining causes of action — including an allegation Umansky breached his duty to be an honest and fair broker — assuming the case survived a motion for summary judgment and wasn’t dismissed by Epstein.

A core issue was Hakim’s allegation that he and Segal verbally offered at least $40 million for the property, but that Umansky never passed the offer on to his client Nguema. They also claimed Umansky told them not to bother to put the offer in writing because of the unusual nature of the transaction, since Nguema would not personally benefit from a higher price.

Umansky has denied Hakim made such an offer or that he told him to not put it in writing — something he said a sophisticated investor would always do. “It’s a ‘he said, she said.’ I know what happened. And I know that there was no verbal offer made. Period. End the story,” Umansky said.

Hakim’s attorneys have disputed that there was no evidence. Last year, they submitted into the court file the transcription of a voicemail left for Umansky by Segal in May 2015. During it, the agent notes that his client is ready with an all-cash offer in the “40 range.”

Umansky dismissed the voicemail, saying it was left with him prior to Segal visiting the property. “I am well aware of that. We do that all the time, ‘Hey, I’ve got a client looking up to $60 million. What can I have? What can you show?’ That’s not evidence of any sort of offer.”

Attorneys for Umansky also have questioned whether Hakim had the financial wherewithal to make an all-cash offer that would close the deal fast, though Umansky’s and Oberfeld’s limited liability company itself needed to bring in other investors.

Perhaps the most central issue of the case revolved around when Umansky and Oberfeld reached their own agreement to buy the property. Umansky informed Nguema and the Department of Justice in June 2016 — weeks before the sale closed and long after negotiations with Hakim had ceased — that he had only recently been invited to participate in the buyers’ group.

But Epstein cast doubt on that in a ruling this year, stating there were documents indicating a “concrete February 2016 plan for a joint partnership that had long been in the works.”

The court notes that the evidence does seem pretty clear that Umansky’s suggestion that the discussions only started a little bit before May 2016 was simply false and he knew it when he said it,” the judge wrote.

Umansky said the “judge was completely wrong in those statements” — and almost seemed to rue the case was dropped.

“Unfortunately, or fortunately, it’s not going to be heard at trial,” he said.

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