“We’re stopping someone who acted in the utmost bad faith,” Silversmith’s Manhattan-based attorney Larry Hutcher said of the case. “What I really think is, they tried to steal his yacht.”
In papers filed with the court Wednesday, FE Partners paints a different picture: one of a company that tried to help a man who considered selling to a foreign buyer and wasn’t candid about problems with the yacht.
Michael Cantor, who owns FE Partners along with the Timblo family of India, says in court documents that Silversmith sent him a copy of an unsolicited letter from a Russian firm saying it wanted to purchase the Sequoia for $20 million, which would also cover its delivery to St. Petersburg, Russia.
“Mr. Silversmith explained that he thought the offer appeared serious and indicated that if it were serious he was inclined to accept it,” reads Cantor’s statement. “But he asked me to put together an alternative investor group which would be interested in keeping the Sequoia in the United States and willing to provide him with certain investment capital.”
FE Partners stepped in to serve that purpose, Cantor states, but soon after the papers were signed, the company discovered undisclosed problems with the Sequoia, including a history of not paying the crew on time and unpaid debt.
Silversmith’s lawyer says he never considered selling the yacht to a Russian company and sent the letter only to show a third party’s evaluation of the yacht’s worth.
In the suit, Silversmith outlines his success at finding a new lender and his desire to pay FE Partners back in full with interest. But instead of the company being “overjoyed,” he says, he received notice over Thanksgiving weekend that it intended to purchase the Sequoia at the reduced price, with “a hectoring closing note stating, ‘Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving!’ ”
The suit mentions one other group that stands to lose if the yacht is sold: a group of mostly Latino high school students from the District. Silversmith recently paired up with the Boy Scouts to create a Sea Scout troop, and the students were set to start work on the Sequoia this year.
Staff researcher Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.