BH Group: Big investments, big partners and big mystery

Yizhak Toledano and a rendering of the project at 2261 Northeast 164th Street in Miami beach (Cohen Freedman, YizhakToledano.org)

Generating industry buzz and making headlines is part of the thrill for most developers when they jump on a new project.

Not so for BH Group.

The firm has developed a playbook that is ambitious just as much as it is clandestine.

Over the past year, it’s taken aim at South Florida’s lucrative real estate market, often teaming up with Israeli billionaire Teddy Sagi and local real estate tycoon Jorge Pérez. But despite claiming its piece of the market, it hasn’t budged on disclosing who owns and operates the company.

Through public records and sources familiar with the company, The Real Deal has established the firm’s close ties to one individual: Isaac Toledano, or Yizhak in his native Israel.

While Toledano — no apparent relation to notorious New York landlord Raphael Toledano  — has been developing since shortly after moving to South Florida in 2000 at the age of 26 — it’s easier to find traces of him in records than it is to pinpoint one of his showpiece projects.

Early on in his U.S. dealings, he partnered with developers Mordechai Boaziz and David Houri on apartment-to-condo conversions in Las Vegas and Port Orange, south of Daytona Beach, as well as on the purchase of a Hallandale Beach retirement community, according to court records. Boaziz sued Toledano and Houri in 2008, alleging they duped him out of $20 million from the ventures. Toledano settled for $900,000, the records show.

Three websites with the Yizhak Toledano domain name include ambiguous statements about him such as “involved in a number of dynamic real estate ventures.” But each site is short on details and is missing basics such as his project completion dates and the addresses of his developments. These mini-biographies focus on Toledano’s “humble beginnings,” his early career in mortgage lending and his pledge to offer the “highest standard of business.”

A development touted as “award winning,” City Park Aventura, was slapped with an $18.3 million foreclosure judgment in 2010. The site, untouched by construction crews, was auctioned off that year.

And while Toledano himself has put effort into self-promotion as an independent player, BH, as a company, is avoiding the ballyhoo.

Its website features a description as a “private investment and real estate company” typed in plain font with block letters set against rotating images of high-end projects and downtown Miami aerial views. No ‘About Us,’ ‘Portfolio’ or ‘Meet the Team’ tabs.

But it opted to include one detail: Its address at 2999 Northeast 191st Street in Aventura.

Turns out, it’s the tie that binds.

Shushed

Roughly a dozen LLCs that are led by Toledano and list this address have been incorporated in Florida dating back to 2001. His real estate firm, Sky Development, also has the same address.

Other LLCs also registered to this address are led by Steve Eyal Levy, including an entity called BH Investments US, which happens to be the domain name for Toledano’s email.

Like Toledano, there’s little to be found on Levy. A search points to an individual who founded the merchant cash advance funding firm Banana Exchange in New York and specialty art financing company PlatinumArt, but it’s unclear if they are the same person. The companies did not return messages for comment.

When reached by phone, some of BH’s investment partners quickly declined to identify the company’s executives and wouldn’t even bend off the record. Instead, they simply repeated that BH is led by “very private” people, with some identifying them as a family and others saying they are from overseas.

While TRD was reaching out to several of BH’s venture partners, word apparently got back to Toledano. He reached out to TRD and said he will solve the “mystery” of who leads BH. But Toledano claimed to only be a representative for the BH investors. He also denied being the same person as Yizkak Toledano. The rest of the conversation was off the record.

Follow-up calls with investment partners and others familiar with the organization became strained. Robyn Randolph, who answers BH’s phones and is the point of contact on its website has been helpful in past conversations. But during her last correspondence with TRD she insisted that, unlike what a local news publication reported in 2020, she isn’t the company’s head, adding she had to rush off.

A number of compelling pieces of evidence suggest Toledano is the central figure at BH. A company affiliate took out a $7 million mortgage for the purchase of a North Miami Beach development site planned for a 400-unit apartment tower. Yizhak Toledano signed on behalf of the borrower, and his signature matched that of Isaac Toledano in other public records.

In partnership with Pérez’s Related Group, BH bought the Aventura office building it lists as its address, with plans for an office-residential project on the adjacent parking lot. Toledano’s name is on the deed.

BH’s planned projects with Related and Sagi are the luxury condo redevelopment of North Miami’s long-closed White House Inn and their investment in Michael Masanoff’s Transit Village mixed-use project in West Palm Beach.

BH and North Palm Beach-based Electra America bought the Southland Mall in southern Miami-Dade County, with plans for renovations and new residential construction.

Could these splashy projects finally push BH, and its mysterious founder, into the attention-grabbing game that most of the area’s developers play?

Hype machine

Those who rely on the “let your work speak for itself” axiom haven’t been around South Florida developers much.

They clamor for media attention, even with run-of-the-mill project milestones like topping off ceremonies, routine refinancings or project approvals. And they demand the acclaim isn’t exclusively for the CEO but should include all of the company’s principals and co-partners in event photos and news roundups.

Given BH’s sizable portfolio, one of its investment partners said they want to try to schedule a meeting between the company principals and TRD to offer a crash course in dealing with local media.

Whether BH will follow its peers and emerge from the shadows remains to be seen.

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