The Wek is buying up Fort Lauderdale Beach.
Who is The Wek?
It's Canadian trader Michael Wekerle, who owns a winter home in Fort Lauderdale. He's a veritable legend on Canadian trading floors, a true financial animal. You can read all about him here.
Then you have Swedish hedge funder Par Sanda, who is on an even bigger tear, snapping up distressed properties at a blistering pace.
These foreign vultures -- and I use that as a technical term -- want to transform the mom-and-pop joints into high-end luxury resorts. I don't know if that will be good or bad, but one thing is clear: They're leaving a trail of despair and foreclosures in their wake.
But that isn't stopping Broward Tourism Director Nikki Grossman from cheerleading for the high-wheeling investors in a recent Sun-Sentinel article on the buying spree by Wekerle and Sanda.
"The stars are aligning," Grossman gushed. "What you got right now are willing sellers who are making way for a different kind of beach development for Broward. Once we got the four- and five-star hotels on the beach, the natural movement was westward with higher-end properties, and that was something the small motels could not do."
"Willing seller"? Wow, what a nice way to describe
bankruptcy and foreclosure. I spoke with one beach motel owner this morning, whom I'll name later, who is being squeezed out of her property right now. She wept at one point on the phone, describing a tortuous -- and what she calls suspicious -- process involving a bank involved in more than one of these deals, Landmark Bank. Just for background, federal regulators cited Landmark Bank last year for "unsafe and unsound" practices.
The beach innkeeper says that when BSO comes to evict her from her hotel, which she's owned for several years to glowing reviews from adoring customers, she plans a peaceful protest. "Somebody has to fight for what's right," she said.
More on this saga as it develops.
In other news:
-- The South Florida Times reports this morning on another big game attended by Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti's teenaged son while his father worked a special security detail. This time, it's the 2009 BCS Championship game at Sun Life Stadium.
Elgin Jones' report in the Times is based on the photograph at right, which first appeared on the Pulp after the Scott Rothstein scandal broke. It shows the sheriff with his arm around the Ponzi schemer. Also in the photo are Undersheriff Tom Wheeler and Lt. David Benjamin, the lieutenant under investigation for his involvement with Rothstein, whom Benjamin escorted through the airport when he fled for Morocco as his billion-dollar scheme was imploding.
Noticeable in the photograph is the fact that Lamberti's son, Nick, is wearing official credentials that mirror his father's. Interestingly, BSO never requested credentials for Nick Lamberti, leading to the question: How did the boy get the credentials?
Looks like the sheriff gave his son credentials that weren't used by other deputies.
It's all part of the FDLE investigation ongoing into the Super Bowl credentials, according to Jones.
-- Unbelievable. Sylvia Poitier, after winning reelection, is trying to start a "defense fund" to sue Chaz Stevens, and she wants to know if that is legal.
Now Poitier wants the same special interests who have been financing her campaigns to chip in for a lawsuit against an activist?
What a disgrace is Poitier.