Scott Rothstein and the Las Olas Company

by Bernard McCormick Saturday, December 05, 2009 No Comment(s)

For weeks there have been rumors of a connection between jailed lawyer Scott Rothstein and the Las Olas Company’s problems with its ambitious Riverside Hotel expansion. Thursday the story broke in Dan Christensen’s new blog, Broward Bulldog. Christensen last week broke the story of a lawsuit by the Wells family, owners of the Riverside, against their former president, Irv Bowen. Now Christensen reveals part of the reason for the litigation. Bowen, acting on behalf of Las Olas Company, allegedly borrowed $6 million at a high interest rate from Rothstein through a Las Olas Company subsidiary.


Christensen reports Bowen was fired in July, months after arranging a one-year loan at 14 percent. That, at a time of record low interest rates. His blog also said Bowen mortgaged the hotel, a mortgage since paid off, and borrowed additional money from other sources active on Las Olas Boulevard.


The report adds one more bizarre element to the Rothstein saga and leaves many questions unanswered. Foremost, was the loan legit in the first place, or just one of Rothstein’s fake investments to lure money into his Ponzi network? Christensen says Barbara Wells, heiress to the Wells family fortune, may have taken a huge hit. Christensen previously reported that the failed expansion, involving knocking down a half block of popular restaurants and night spots, deprived the Las Olas Company of substantial rental revenue. It also resulted in many people losing their jobs and deprived Las Olas Boulevard of one of its best traffic draws, affecting the ambiance of one of South Florida’s most popular tourist streets. For Las Olas merchants, it made a tough economy even tougher.


It is a depressing turn in the history of the charming hotel, which goes back to 1935 when the Wells family opened it as the Champ Carr. The family, notably low key over many years, literally built Las Olas. They owned most of the surrounding property and stores. They expanded the hotel in recent years and seemed poised to add even more vitality with the expansion to the east.


It seems as if there should be another side to this story. We tried to reach Irv Bown but were advised that his lawyers won’t let him comment at this time.


For Christensen, it accelerates the fast start to his investigative blog ( The highly respected former Miami Herald reporter organized Broward Bulldog as a non-profit enterprise.

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