Construction appears to be in the offing for the La Peer, a hotel on West Hollywood’s La Peer Drive in which a very controversial developer may or may not be involved, depending on which of his statements one believes.
A sign on the property, which currently is a public parking lot leased by the city, says that construction of the La Peer Hotel will begin in November 2014. Although work apparently hasn’t started yet, the sign is the first indication that the project, approved by the city in 2009, finally may be underway.
The hotel is a project of 623 La Peer LLC, a company whose owners include siblings Carol Braidi and Elie and Demitri Samaha, natives of Lebanon who moved to Los Angeles in their teens. WEHOville was unable to reach any of them for comment on the project.
Initially approved as a 69-room hotel with eight condominium units, a restaurant and retail space, the Samahas now propose to make the 63,000-square-foot building a 105-room hotel by eliminating the condominiums.
The project sits closed to another proposed hotel, which is part of the Robertson Lane project. Robertson Lane will replace the Factory nightclub space on Robertson Boulevard with a hotel with more than 250 rooms, underground parking with more than 1,000 spaces and a retail and dining space.
Elie Samaha has been the subject of controversy in recent years. Earlier this year, the law firm of Quinn, Emanuel, Urquhart & Sullivan won a judgment of $421,000 for unpaid legal bills in a suit filed against him. The attorney representing the law firm presented the transcript of a TV interview in which Samaha bragged that he had a stake in at least 11 restaurants and clubs clustered on Hollywood and Sunset boulevards. They include the Roxbury, the Playhouse, La Vida, The Writer’s Room, Hemingway’s Lounge and Pig N’Whistle. He also said he is a co-owner of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the Two Bunch Palms resort in Desert Hot Springs, reputed to have been built in the 1920s by Al Capone. The Hollywood Reporter reported in 2012 that Samaha had purchased the 270-acre resort along with real estate investor Gidi Cohen and producers Steve Markoff and Donald Kushner, who it identified as Samaha’s partners in the purchase of the Chinese Theatre. The Two Bunch Palms website lists Carol Braidi and Elie Samaha as being involved in the resort.
However Samaha testified in the suit that he didn’t own the Chinese Theatre and really wasn’t aware of what property he owns. Samaha told the judge in that case that he hadn’t earned any money in five years and had $10 million in debt. In 2000 Samaha and his film production company, Franchise Pictures, were sued for breach of contract and fraud by German film distributor Intertainment. A court awarded Intertainment $122 million damages. Franchise Pictures was ordered to pay $1 million of that, and it went into bankruptcy. Samaha was ordered to pay Intertainment $4 million.
Samaha, 59, has produced more than 80 films and video games. His only award-winner was “Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000.” The film, which was based on a novel by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and starred John Travolta, won a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture.
Elie Samaha currently is being sued by Andrew Gruver and Ryan Carrillo, former employees of The Abbey and SBE Entertainment Group. Gruver and Carrillo allege that Samaha had promised them he would invest $500,000 in a gay sports bar they hoped to open at 8948 Santa Monica Blvd., where P.U.M.P., a restaurant and lounge owned by reality TV performer Lisa Vanderpump, opened in May. The suit says that Samaha holds the master lease on the property, formerly the home of the Java Detour coffee bar.
Gruver and Carrillo allege that Samaha not only didn’t deliver on his promise of an investment, but that after signing an agreement to lease the property to them for $4,000 a month he turned around and leased it to Vanderpump and her husband, Ken Todd. Gruver and Carrillo also are suing Vanderpump and Todd, alleging that they “intended to disrupt the performance of the (existing) agreement” with Samaha.
Gruver and Carrillo allege that Samaha is not broke but has shifted all of his assets, including ownership of the Java Detour property, to his sister, Carol Braidi. Samaha told the court that Braidi has been paying his bills, which amount to $20,000 to $25,000 a month, including the mortgage on the house he owns on Longridge Avenue in Sherman Oaks.