Sean Conlon takes Sushi Samba carnival to court
June 30th, 2016
Chicago real estate investor Sean Conlon has filed a lawsuit against owners of the Chicago Sushi Samba franchise that once stood on the property he now owns in River North.
The suit filed in the Chancery Division of Cook County Court accuses Sushi Samba’s New York-based owners and other investors of stiffing the general contractor, Crane Construction, in building out the 14,000-square-foot space located at 504 N. Wells St. It was a $5 million project to transform the River North building into a Japanese/Brazilian/Peruvian showcase. But Crane said it was only paid about $3 million, so it filed suit in 2004.
A judge ordered Sushi Samba owners to pay the remaining $2 million, but the case languished for years until Conlon bought up the property and the judgment in 2014 for $6 million.
Now he’s looking to be repaid for the unpaid construction work–including interest–to the tune of $3.5 million.
Conlon’s lawsuit, filed by his attorney, Michael Forde, lists numerous names and corporations that were involved with Sushi Samba at the time. The suit names officials connected to the Samba parent company in New York–Shimon Bokovza, Danielle Billera and Matthew Johnson. And the suit names Chicago investors, too, including Chicago Capital IV LLC, which is managed by Stuart Kipnes, who previously served as a board member with CBOE; the North Shore Litowitz Family, headed by Alec Litowitz, who also founded Magnetar Capital. They did not immediately return my calls asking about the lawsuit.
The court filing states Sushi Samba was making distribution payments to investors all while Crane was attempting (through the courts) to get paid. The suit says Sushi Samba owners and investors “siphoned” money “for their own benefit.”
“Samba is quite the appropriate name because it’s been a complete carnival,” Conlon told me in an interview about the case. “You can’t shimmy out of town and not pay your bills. It’s not how it works.”
Looks like Conlon isn’t the only one dealing with Sushi Samba in court. Johnson’s brother says he’s owed millions, too, according to this story.