Bilgili partners with Bizzi & Partners

Turkish investor and Davide Bizzi’s firm eye projects in U.S. and Europe

Serdar Bilgili is back.

The Turkish investor, who made a splash for his partnership and then breakup with Michael Shvo, has teamed up with Bizzi & Partners on a new venture. The two will partner on all projects across the United States and possibly some in Europe.

“We have the same culture, same view, same attitude in business and the same values,” said Davide Bizzi in an interview.

But even as Bilgili looks to chart a new path separate from Shvo, his first New York project still has deep ties to the Manhattan developer.

Bilgili will join Bizzi as a minority partner in 125 Greenwich, a 88-story condo tower in Lower Manhattan that was recently restarted after years of delays.

Shvo, Howard Lorber’s New Valley and Bizzi began developing the Rafael Viñoly-designed supertall about a decade ago, but ran into issues within its capital stack and condo sales never took off.

Shvo faced tax evasion charges from the Manhattan District Attorney and sold his stake in 2018. After a recapitalization, Bizzi was the only one left from the initial development group. Fortress has taken over as the lead developer and hopes to start sales next year.

Bilgili said his interest in 125 Greenwich had nothing to do with Shvo and got involved only because of his interest in partnering with Bizzi.

Bizzi said he and Bilgili have known each other for some time and even live in the same building in New York City. Both are looking to expand their presence in the United States.

The two plan to partner on all future U.S. projects, including an office property in Miami Beach that Bizzi is developing. They are also looking at further opportunities in Miami and some office properties in Los Angeles that they hope to redevelop.

The new venture, known as Bizzi + Bilgili, comes at a time when higher interest rates are putting a squeeze on developers’ margins. There are few transactions and few new entrants to the high-end residential market in New York.

“Bad times are always good times to invest. It’s when the opportunities come in the real estate market,” said Bilgili. “It’s when everyone is scared that’s when the real investors come in.”

Bilgili’s BLG Capital is a major developer in Turkey, known for projects like the Soho House Istanbul and Ritz-Carlton Residences Istanbul, while Bizzi’s firm is an active developer in Italy. The two plan to continue to invest in Europe, including in hospitality and residential.

Bilgili said he expects investment in Turkey to pick up once again after a few down years for the economy and will soon be the “flavor of the month” for Western investors.

Bilgili first entered the U.S. scene around 2018, when he partnered with his friend Shvo.

The Manhattan developer, who had just pled guilty to tax evasion charges, went on a massive buying spree with Bilgili and partner Deutsche Finance America, with backing from the German pension fund BVK. The group acquired the Coca Cola Building at 711 Fifth Avenue, the former Gucci headquarters at 685 Fifth Avenue, and the site of the Mandarin Oriental Residences in Beverly Hills.

But the partners butted heads and Bilgili ended up suing Shvo, alleging Shvo ran up expenses for the partners, and wanted Shvo to open the books. He accused Shvo and partner Deutsche Finance America of cutting him out of an agreement on two big deals, including the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco and for Chicago’s landmark “Big Red” office building.

Shvo and Deutsche Finance claimed Bilgili was cut out because he could not come up with the funds and was trying to leverage a payday from Shvo. Their attorney also alleged that Bilgili’s properties in Europe were struggling during the pandemic.

Bilgili’s lawsuit in New York was discontinued weeks after he filed it. Though he still maintains an interest in some of Shvo’s projects, he said the two no longer have a relationship.

“We finished the partnership a couple of years ago,” said Bilgili. “That chapter for us has closed.”