October 28, 2020

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Just Do Travel

Contractor Seeks Nearly $2M from Lennox Miami Beach Operator

3 min read
From left: 1900 Collins Avenue (Top), 229 19th Street, 1925 Liberty Avenue and 227 19th Street (Credit: Google Maps)

From left: 1900 Collins Avenue (Top), 229 19th Street, 1925 Liberty Avenue and 227 19th Street (Credit: Google Maps)

The owners of a Miami Beach hotel mired in a bitter family legal battle got hit with a separate lawsuit by a contractor alleging unpaid work.

Cuesta Construction sued Lennox Miami Corp., the holding company for the Lennox Miami Beach hotel at 1900 Collins Avenue. Cuesta seeks foreclosure of a construction lien on four Lennox Miami Corp. buildings, accusing the holding company of owing Cuesta $1.75 million, according to the complaint filed last week in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

Lennox Miami hired Cuesta in 2015 to renovate three buildings and the five-story, 119-room Lennox Miami Beach, formerly called the Peter Miller Hotel, according to the suit. The $71 million renovation was completed last year. The other, historic buildings are at 229 19th Street, 1925 Liberty Avenue and 227 19th Street in Miami Beach.

According to its website, Miami-based Cuesta was founded in 1996 and has worked on commercial and residential projects, including hotels, restaurants, retail and offices. It worked on the ABAE Hotel and Vintro Hotel in Miami Beach and the 6,000-plus-square-foot “Hammock House” in Coconut Grove.

Attorneys for Cuesta did not respond to email requests for comment. Lennox Miami Corp. also did return an emailed request for comment.

The suit comes amid a contentious legal battle between the father-in-law and son-in-law who own Lennox Miami Beach.

In July, Diego Agnelli, the former president of Lennox Miami Corp., filed a lawsuit alleging that his father-in-law, the Art Deco property’s investor Juan Castellanos Bonillo, fired Agnelli for splitting up with Castellanos’ daughter.

Agnelli owns 12.5 percent of Lennox Hotel. Castellanos’ daughter owns 12.5 percent and Castellanos owns 75 percent. He invested more than $59 million to fund the hotel, according to the suit.

Castellanos’ side of the story has emerged in newly filed court documents. Lennox Miami Corp. filed a countersuit against Agnelli, accusing him of misappropriating more than $2 million during his nine years with Lennox.

The lawsuit alleges Agnelli spent more than $1 million of misappropriated funds on construction and furnishing of a house. It also alleges he spent about $184,000 on an $11,500-a-month Key Biscayne apartment he moved into after separating from Castellanos’ daughter.

The lawsuit also accuses Agnelli of misappropriating funds for Colorado ski trips, an Ironman race in Panama and a trip to the soccer World Cup in Russia. Agnelli also allegedly opened a secret Wells Fargo account for Lennox that only he accessed.

The company further alleges Agnelli mismanaged the company’s operations and withheld information and documents from shareholders to conceal his actions. The lawsuit accuses Agnelli of delaying the hotel’s remodeling from 2013 to 2019 due to mismanagement, which resulted in a “needlessly indebted” $5.5 million, missing books and records and lawsuits from third parties.

In addition, the suit alleges Agnelli took advantage of his father-in-law’s inability to read or speak English to get him to sign Agnelli’s 2017 employment contract. Castellanos is Argentine, and his native language is Spanish.

Lennox fired Agnelli on June 22 after learning of his actions, according to court documents filed at the end of July.

For weeks after his firing, Agnelli allegedly instructed and interacted with hotel employees, its third-party management company and other service providers, the suit states. He involved Miami Beach Police in granting him access to the hotel and changed the password to the hotel’s security video footage software, according to the lawsuit.

Agnelli is seeking to enforce a clause in his employment agreement requiring Lennox Miami to pay him $6 million for terminating him without cause. He alleges that Castellanos orchestrated a takeover of the company, and froze Lennox bank accounts.