Under Florida law, in instances where no heir is found, the state gets to pocket that money.
The club’s contentious demise comes after years of decline.
In its heyday, many of Miami’s elite belonged to the club — although for decades its history was tarnished by a glaring absence of Jews and blacks.
The Mediterranean-style club, designed by Miami architect Russell Pancoast, features a spectacular central hall, Peacock Alley, that extends from Collins Avenue to the beach.
Sir Winston Churchill famously painted seascapes there. Guests included the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, General Douglas MacArthur, and Elizabeth Taylor.
Whitman recalls spectacular shows like those put on by Alfred Baron, a member. “He was a showman — he brought in elephants, everything,” Whitman said. “That was in the glory days. Good God, it’s a ghost of what it used to be.”
Amid its decline, the club hired legal counsel in 2010 to explore an historic designation in a bid to cut taxes. That only triggered more legal fireworks.
With Zarco as general counsel, the club sued the law firm of Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod and attorney Price for malpractice, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. The case, which originally took aim at other attorneys as well, was dismissed by the court.
An amended complaint filed in June alleges Price failed to advise the club the historic designation would reduce the property’s value. Any damages collected would be divided among club members.
Miami attorney Harley S. Tropin, who represents Price and his firm, said, “The first complaint against this firm and Mr. Price was dismissed. We’re confident the second version will fare no better.’’
So far, none of the turmoil has stymied the new owner’s plans. Fort Capital’s Achi, who negotiated the deal. said he’s moving forward with plans for an 80-room hotel and a 150-unit oceanfront condo. Another 24 units are planned for the west side of Collins Avenue.
His goal, Achi said last fall, is “To bring back the original splendor of the club.’’