The attorney of rapper Birdman (aka Bryan Williams) wants to set the record straight.
Other outlets had reported the Cash Money CEO had been forced out of his Miami Beach, FL, home and also had his personal property confiscated.
Real estate attorney Alan Soven believes the public has heard only one side of the story, most of it favoring the lender.
“Ninety percent of what you’ve been hearing is just wrong,” says Soven. In an effort to set the record straight, he gave us his side of the saga.
“I’d like to give you the full and true facts,” he says.
According to Soven (and legal documents he provided), the lender is in no position to foreclose on the property, Birdman was never evicted, and all of his possessions are safe and sound.
However, there are quite a few twists and turns along the way involving a Saudi prince, Hurricane Irma, Lloyds of London, and an “illegal predatory loan with toxic terms,” says Soven.
Williams bought the mansion—which was built in 2004—from Rockstar Energy Drink founder Russell Weiner for $14.25 million in 2011. Birdman paid mostly in cash, but took out a $5 million mortgage.
Since the home was “trashed” when he bought it, Williams spent a few million to renovate the place into a baller’s paradise, with oodles of marble, chrome, custom lighting, and textured animal-print wallpaper. According to Soven, Williams even added two golden toilets worth $75,000 each.
When a balloon payment on the $5 million loan came due, Williams decided to refinance the loan with another private lender. That’s where the trouble started.
“The lender turned a $5,000,000 residential mortgage into a $12,000,000 commercial mortgage, and then charged a 24% penalty fee—all in violation of state and federal law,” says Soven.
By converting the private residential loan into a commercial loan, the lender wasn’t subject to the regulations that keep individual borrowers safe from predatory lending practices. However, Williams didn’t realize the burdensome nature of the loan at the time.
Williams complied with the terms and made payments on the new loan for a bit. The house even generated income, when a Saudi prince rented it for $250,000 a month for several months. Because Birdman has two other mansions—in his native New Orleans and in Los Angeles—he thought, “Why not?”
When another balloon payment came due, the questionable loan structure became evident, and Williams attempted to refinance again. During those negotiations, he failed to make a monthly payment on time. As a result, in February 2017 the lender raised the interest rate to 24%—and assessed it retroactively.
With the prospect of a six-figure interest charge tacked onto already large monthly mortgage payments, Soven and Williams decided to contest the loan. While working on fighting the terms of the loan, they decided it might be better just to sell the place. As a result, the mansion went up for sale for $20 million in June 2017.
Then Hurricane Irma hit in September 2017, severely damaging the home, including the roof, and sending water pouring in through broken windows. Many of the luxury furnishings were ruined, and the place was deemed unlivable.
Birdman moved into a plush Miami penthouse (his New Orleans home had been damaged as well). According to Soven, the move out of the mansion had nothing to do with an eviction. As a result of the damage, Williams filed a claim with his insurers, Lloyds of London.
It was unclear how long it would take Lloyds to resolve the claim, so the home’s lender offered to appoint a receiver who could oversee the repairs to the property and pay for the damages quickly.
Williams agreed to these terms so the elements wouldn’t cause further damage.
At that time, Williams and his team were allowed to go in and remove most of his personal items. The receiver had a BET Award, MTV Award, and platinum record plaques placed in climate-controlled storage.
According to Soven, those items are freely available to Williams at any time. The lawyer says reports of the rapper filing claims to retrieve his personal items are simply untrue.
Foreclosure and counterclaim
So where does all this hubbub leave the hit-making producer? The lender has filed foreclosure proceedings, while Williams and Soven have filed a counterclaim against the lender “because the mortgage was fraudulent, illegal, and in violation of numerous federal and state lending laws,” says Soven.
“Of course Brian has always been able to pay off the $12 million loan at any time, but it’s become a matter of principle,” says Soven.
The easiest solution would be to sell the property at its current list price of $15.5 million, and everyone could settle.
But if a sale doesn’t occur soon, Soven has offered to keep us abreast of the proceedings. In the meantime, Williams continues to produce hit records and proceed with plans to marry his fiancee, Toni Braxton.
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