Saks, Bal Harbour Shops Closer to Court Battle – WWD

SEE YOU IN COURT: Bal Harbour Shops is “looking forward” to duking it out with Saks Fifth Avenue in court.

The tony Miami shopping center and the luxury retailer are suing each other in a dispute over rent and other lease payments and issues.

The dispute could still be settled through arbitration. But on Friday, Matthew Whitman Lazenby, president and chief executive officer of Whitman Family Development LLC, which owns Bal Harbour Shops, had some tough words for Saks. “We have reviewed Saks Fifth Avenue’s complaint alleging breach of contract and business defamation filed yesterday against Bal Harbour Shops and find it to be without any legal basis,” Lazenby said in a statement sent to WWD. “We intend to vigorously defend this litigation while pursuing all remedies to enforce Saks’ lease obligations and we look forward to these issues being adjudicated by the courts.”

Lazenby’s comments were a reaction to the lawsuit filed Wednesday by Saks against Bal Harbour Shops and comments by Ian Putnam, president and ceo of Hudson’s Bay Co. Properties and Investments. HBC owns Saks.

Saks’ lawsuit contends that to pressure the retailer to resolve the dispute over lease payments during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lazenby disclosed confidential information provided by Saks to Bal Harbour in accordance with its lease agreement. The suit also alleges that Bal Harbour and Lazenby “caused damage to Saks’ business and reputation by making public defamatory statements to the media that omitted facts relating to the dispute.”

Saks’ suit against Bal Harbour followed the lawsuit filed in August by Bal Harbour Shops seeking to evict Saks due to alleged “extensive arrearages,” including overdue rent. Both lawsuits were filed in the 11th Judicial Circuit Court of Miami-Dade County.

Putnam said in a statement Wednesday, “We are disappointed that Mr. Lazenby chose to breach our longstanding agreement and disparage Saks Fifth Avenue, an iconic luxury retailer that has been vital to Bal Harbour’s success for 45 years.” Putnam also said that Lazenby provided confidential information to the media for the sole purpose of coercing Saks into settling a disagreement. “Nonetheless, we have remained eager to reach a fair resolution, just as we have done with other landlord partners,” Putnam said.

Most disagreements between retailers and landlords due to pandemic-related store and mall closings have been negotiated out of the court, though more lawsuits around the country are expected.

The center fountain at Bal Harbour Shops.

The center fountain at Bal Harbour Shops. 
Doug Castanedo

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