Sigrún Davíðsdóttir's Icelog

Grace and disgrace at Gramercy Park

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Last summer, anyone looking for a spectacular flat in New York and having $26,000 to pay in rent a month, had the chance to rent a flat at 50 Gramercy Park from Jon Asgeir Johannesson, of Baugur’s former fame, and his wife Ingibjorg Palmadottir. A company eventually sign the rent contract on behalf of a couple, something they must have come to regret since only a few months later they were embroiled in a bitter disagreement and court case with the landlords. A disagreement that eventually ended in court. And since Johannesson and Palmadottir have been sued in New York by Glitnir documents connected to the rental disagreement, best called the Ikea dispute since an offensive Ikea kitchen is at the heart of the dispute together with chewed chicken wings, are now on the internet making for an interesting if at time decidedly funny morning coffee read.

The couple renting suffered all sorts of hardship. They had to use one of the toilets as a kitchen because it took ages to install the kitchen. And shock and horror: when the kitchen was finally installed it was designed by Ikea designers, not really thought to be the standard in an Ian Schrager-designed property. And for those of you living with Ikea products there is a stern warning here. According to the documents the kitchen has been ‘a source of embarrassment for the Plaintiff (the renters) and the subject of remarks by guests.’ – Chose your kitchen with care or chose our friends with an even greater care?

But that wasn’t the worst. One day in July 2009 the couple were on their balcony with guests and a hail of thirty chewed chicken wings rained on them. In this way, the landlords upstairs ‘trespassed’ onto the premisses. In addition, the lodgers had to pay $500 for servicing the air conditioning and so on and on. No fun having landlords like these though we don’t know what the landlords thought of those who rented except we know they got $312,000 in an annual rent for the year starting June 2009.

On a more serious note: the Glitnir court case has opened up a highly intriguing vista on Johannesson’s affairs and there is a whole raft of documents to study. Whatever the outcome will be Glitnir’s move has been extremely valuable in throwing light on the dealings of Johannesson and the ‘cabal of businessmen’, with the aid of PwC, who robbed Glitnir, a public company, from the inside.

It’s also a fascinating thing to watch the case as a machination in a Greek tragedy – how things are set in motion and slowly one senses the direction. Take i.a. Palmi Haraldsson, still the owner of Iceland Express. Glitnir had to look on as Fons went into bankruptcy: the claims against Fons amount to ISK40bn and supposedly no assets to speak of. Yet, Haraldsson still owns Iceland Express. Its value can be difficult to establish but at least it’s a going concern. If Glitnir can get the NY court to accept that its charges are credible, that the case should be heard in New York and the case goes against the cabal Glitnir might have the chance of confiscating the real assets of Haraldsson.

There are plenty of ‘if’ and ‘maybe’ here but that’s what gives the case this creeping sense of Greek tragedy: the slow movement that just possibly spells disaster for those charged. If the case goes against Glitnir the wind up board has at least unearthed mountains of documents that could be put to use elsewhere. Documents that enlighten us all on what was really going on inside the cabal and in Icelandic business life.

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Written by Sigrún Davídsdóttir

September 16th, 2010 at 9:21 am

Posted in Iceland

One Response to 'Grace and disgrace at Gramercy Park'

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  1. You have to admire the renters’ attention to detail: they counted the chewed chicken wings to their exact number – 30.

    Rajan P. Parrikar

    19 Sep 10 at 5:24 pm

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