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NYTimes profile of controversial gay Dakota resident Buddy Fletcher
It was not that long ago that Alphonse Fletcher Jr.%E2%80%99s fifth-floor apartment at the Dakota on the Upper West Side was a salon for wealthy and famous guests who traded ideas and chatter at his popular parties. Mr. Fletcher, an accomplished financier, opened his home to fellow Harvard alumni for fund-raising events, and to fellow black notables like Anna Deavere Smith and Anita Hill, two of more than three dozen people who have been given the honor of being Fletcher Fellows, each one receiving a $50,000 stipend from him.
Alphonse Fletcher Jr. sees discrimination in a Dakota co-op board ruling against him; the co-op board questions his financial resources.
In this dynamic mix, Mr. Fletcher included his neighbors and members of the Dakota co-op board, who enjoyed cocktails, nibbles and an occasional performance by Mr. Fletcher leading guests in sing-alongs as he played %E2%80%9CPurple Rain%E2%80%9D on his piano.
But in recent months, Mr. Fletcher%E2%80%99s 2,600-square-foot, three-bedroom apartment has largely been silent. And Mr. Fletcher is engaging in one of the ugliest co-op battles in the world of Manhattan real estate. This month, Mr. Fletcher, 45, sued the co-op board, which he once led, charging it with racial discrimination because he was not allowed to buy a neighboring apartment, and accusing it of discriminating against other residents and applicants, too, including the singer Roberta Flack.
In a building whose name brings to mind Lennon, Bacall and Bernstein, Mr. Fletcher may not be the most famous resident, but he was already one of its most intriguing, even before he took on its board. In college, he was a member of R.O.T.C., which convened at M.I.T., as well as the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Caucus; the reason he says he needs more space is because he is now married, and he and his wife have a young daughter. He was a quick success on Wall Street, accused a major financial institution of racial discrimination, and later was sued himself for sexual harassment. He has given away millions to New York and Ivy League institutions, and has pledged to give away tens of millions more, elevating a few eyebrows in the building.
Just four years ago, he was the consensus choice to be president of the co-op board after a rift among board members. Now he is at war with the board, and in a life full of calculated risks, he may have taken his biggest yet.
The Dakota has fired back, and its response was not so much an opening salvo as a full-scale barrage. The board said it was not credible that a man who already owns four units in the Dakota %E2%80%94 the apartment he lives in, one he bought for his mother and two small ones for storage and for his employees to use %E2%80%94 could claim that he was being treated unfairly.
But most of all, the board said, the financial records Mr. Fletcher submitted made them doubt whether he had the resources to afford yet another home. His investment firm%E2%80%99s %E2%80%9Capparent lack of profitability,%E2%80%9D as well as other evidence, the board wrote, %E2%80%9Csuggested that it may be seriously troubled and a source of potential future costs or liabilities.%E2%80%9D
Mr. Fletcher, whose livelihood depends as much on perception as performance, said he was not cowed. %E2%80%9CThey can%E2%80%99t defame me, a 20-year shareholder who is such a good neighbor, who makes peace, who pays his bills,%E2%80%9D he said in a three-hour interview this week. %E2%80%9CYou can%E2%80%99t tell people in and out of the building that I am a financial mess.%E2%80%9D
Mr. Fletcher, known as Buddy, grew up in Waterford, Conn., the first of three sons of Bettye Fletcher, a teacher, and Alphonse Fletcher Sr., a General Dynamics technician who had grown up in New Orleans and who schooled Buddy in math by taking him to the racetrack. Mr. Fletcher%E2%80%99s brother Todd is a noted composer, and the youngest, Geoffrey, won an Academy Award last year for his screenplay for %E2%80%9CPrecious%E2%80%9D and in his acceptance speech, called Buddy and Todd %E2%80%9Cmy role models, my heroes.%E2%80%9D
All three boys attended Harvard, where Buddy immersed himself in a range of social circles that mirror the diversity of his Dakota gatherings. He was elected first marshal of his senior class. %E2%80%9CHe was a thoughtful and serious person,%E2%80%9D said John Tomlinson, a classmate. %E2%80%9CHe always had a military bearing. His hair was always just right. He sat with good posture. His clothes were always perfect.%E2%80%9D
Mr. Fletcher began his career at Bear Stearns and then moved to Kidder Peabody. In 1991, at 25, he accused Kidder of racial discrimination, saying it had reneged on pay that he said he had been promised. New York Stock Exchange arbitration panels awarded him $1.3 million but ruled that Kidder had not discriminated against him.
He hung out his own shingle, Fletcher Asset Management, and among his successful strategies was to invest in cash-starved companies with otherwise sound businesses, including Zenith, whose recovery brought the firm huge profits. He moved his firm into luxurious headquarters on the 48th floor of the General Motors building on Fifth Avenue with breath-stealing views of Central Park and the world beyond.
In 1992, after having offers rejected on three other apartments at the Dakota, Mr. Fletcher bought a first-floor unit for $465,000, becoming the second black buyer in the building%E2%80%99s history, after Ms. Flack. Other than Ms. Fletcher%E2%80%99s mother, who now sits on the board, there have been no others. (His father died in 1990.)
He was starting his charitable giving , with a $1 million pledge in 1994 to the N.A.A.C.P. But he was also experiencing some of the battles that come with success. A college friend and business partner, Michael Meade, left his firm in 1995 and then sued over his compensation, in a dispute that Mr. Meade now describes as %E2%80%9Ctwo young kids fighting over money.%E2%80%9D They settled in 1997 and didn%E2%80%99t speak for five years, but now do business together.
- %E2%80%9CIt was about everybody getting their fair share, and I learned from the best,%E2%80%9D said Mr. Meade, who runs a brokerage firm in Boca Raton, Fla. %E2%80%9CIf Buddy was willing to fight for his fair share, then I was going to fight for mine.%E2%80%9D
Mr. Fletcher asked Joseph DiMartino, the chairman of the Dreyfus mutual funds, whom he had met at the Bond Club of New York, to serve as a senior adviser to give his firm %E2%80%9Csome adult supervision.%E2%80%9D But Mr. DiMartino left after less than two years because, he said, he felt Mr. Fletcher was involved with too many extracurricular activities, including his philanthropy.
%E2%80%9CAt his age and stage of his development, he should have been focusing on building his business, and there was plenty of time to become Henry Kravis later in his career,%E2%80%9D Mr. DiMartino said. %E2%80%9CHe was trying to fast forward the movie.%E2%80%9D
Mr. Fletcher said that as a young black man trying to establish a reputation on Wall Street, he felt it was necessary to be conspicuous, whether in charity or in his choice of office space.
%E2%80%9CSome people found it difficult to believe that my firm and I were capable of doing the things that we were doing,%E2%80%9D he said.
Even for a Dakota resident, Mr. Fletcher was living well. He had a string of chauffeured cars including a Bentley, a Porsche, a Mercedes and a Jaguar. He bought homes in Montauk and Southampton, which he lent out to employees during the summer; he later sold the homes. He bought 1,100 acres in Litchfield County, Conn., with a storybook house employees called the Castle. He had his own security team.
He was popular among his neighbors, as was his companion, Hobart V. Fowlkes Jr., not least because of the parties they threw, often for charity. But he continued his quest to expand within the building, and kept coming up against obstacles that he now says are evidence of discrimination.
In 1993, he signed a contract on the fifth-floor apartment for $1.375 million, but was forced to sell his first apartment, even though several white residents owned additional units they used as gyms, offices or guest rooms, he said in his suit. The building, in its response, said no one was permitted to own two unconnected, full apartments; residents say the policy stemmed from when John Lennon and Yoko Ono irritated some neighbors by buying several units.
In 2002, Mr. Fletcher sought to buy his mother a ninth-floor two-room apartment, which once was Leonard Bernstein%E2%80%99s studio, for $1.06 million. The board demurred because Mr. Fletcher already owned other apartments, but agreed on the condition that only his mother and %E2%80%9Cno one else would be permitted to reside in Apartment 92, even overnight and even including close relatives,%E2%80%9D according to his lawsuit. The board said that the rules were the same for all owners, and that it had gone out of its way by allowing Mr. Fletcher to purchase the apartment in a trust for his mother.
His philanthropy was growing along with his real estate holdings. Besides the Fletcher Fellows stipends, he has donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and the Studio Museum in Harlem; to Columbia Law School, where the Alphonse Fletcher Jr. chair is now held by the pioneering civil rights lawyer Jack Greenberg; to Harvard, where the scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher university professor; and to Yale and Howard University. None of the institutions would disclose how much he has donated, but given that Ivy League chairs typically cost several million dollars to endow, it is likely that Mr. Fletcher has given away at least $11 million.
In 2004, he made a $50 million pledge to institutions or people working to improve race relations, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision that outlawed segregation in schools. When he was seeking approval to buy the neighboring apartment last year, some board members questioned whether that promise would become a liability.
- Mr. Fletcher said he has donated more than half of the $50 million, but added that he was under no legal obligation to meet the $50 million mark and that it was improper for the board to raise the issue in the application process. (In its legal response, the board did not.)
Looking back, Mr. Fletcher said, he regrets some of the publicity the pledge received. %E2%80%9CI%E2%80%99m proud of what we have set out to accomplish, but I%E2%80%99m very disappointed that some have tried to turn philanthropy into a liability.%E2%80%9D he said. %E2%80%9CIt%E2%80%99s a pledge, not a commitment, and that%E2%80%99s that.%E2%80%9D
Christopher Marsh, a contractor, said that in 2003 Mr. Fletcher hired him to manage his Connecticut property after they saw each other at their 20th high school reunion. After several weeks, Mr. Marsh, who was engaged to be married, quit. He said that Mr. Fletcher had made repeated sexual advances toward him. The two reached a confidential settlement, Mr. Marsh said.
Three years later, a man named John Van Hoosier filed a lawsuit saying he had been fired as Mr. Fletcher%E2%80%99s property manager after rejecting Mr. Fletcher%E2%80%99s sexual advances. Mr. Van Hoosier could not be reached and his lawyer declined to comment, citing a confidentiality agreement he reached.
%E2%80%9CMr. Fletcher denies the allegations and wishes the individuals well,%E2%80%9D said his spokeswoman.
Inside the Dakota, though, he remained popular, and he began serving on the board. In 2006, the outgoing president, John Rydzewski, nominated Richard Robb to succeed him, but some board members demurred after learning that Mr. Rydzewski had recently gone to work at Mr. Robb%E2%80%99s money management firm. Mr. Fletcher emerged as the consensus choice to be president.
Residents say Mr. Fletcher was far from the stereotype of the power-happy co-op president, and even invited all of the residents to a meeting in his apartment to air their grievances. The main one, at the time, was that renovations had been blocking residents%E2%80%99 access to the roof.
But it was in this capacity that Mr. Fletcher, according to his lawsuit, came into conflict with other board members. He said that a member had joked about two prospective buyers being part of the %E2%80%9CJewish mafia,%E2%80%9D and that he had had to persuade other members to grant the couple an interview; the couple was approved.
He said that after a well-known couple, believed to be Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas, was rejected for a ground-floor apartment in 2005, a board member joked that Mr. Banderas, who is Hispanic, wanted to be at street level so he could buy drugs easily. He said that board members joked about repeatedly denying Ms. Flack%E2%80%99s quest for a new bathtub, and also discriminated against her by making her take her dogs into the service elevator while other residents with dogs used the main elevator.
The Dakota%E2%80%99s response did not address every comment made by Mr. Fletcher, though its current president, Bruce Barnes, said in court papers that he had never heard the remark about drugs. And the board%E2%80%99s response asserts a rationale for each decision: Ms. Griffith and Mr. Banderas were turned down, it said, because the building, one of the most gawked-at in the city, has been celebrity-averse ever since the fatal shooting of John Lennon.
Ms. Flack had been the subject of complaints because she violated a policy that residents with access to the service elevator had to use it when with their dogs, the board wrote. And Ms. Flack was permitted to replace her tub once she dropped her quest to install a whirlpool tub, which can leak, the board said.
- A Wish to Expand
Despite becoming president, Mr. Fletcher began to spend more of his time in California, with Ellen K. Pao, a Bay Area venture capitalist he met at a conference and married in 2007. %E2%80%9CHuman beings aren%E2%80%99t so simple that you can characterize them as straight or gay,%E2%80%9D said Mr. Fowlkes, Mr. Fletcher%E2%80%99s former companion. He still works for Mr. Fletcher and is the godfather of his daughter, Matilda. %E2%80%9CWhat I will say about Buddy is that he%E2%80%99s my very best friend and I would do anything for him.%E2%80%9D
Mr. Fletcher began missing board meetings, and left the board in 2009 when he had reached its term limit. In 2010, though, he signed a contract to buy Apartment 52, the two-bedroom unit next to his main apartment. He said he and his wife had not decided where to make their permanent home, and wanted more room should it be at the Dakota. While he said he would live there, he also acknowledges the apartments would be worth more combined than separated.
He agreed to pay all cash, $5.7 million, and then to prepay two years of maintenance for all five apartments, or more than $400,000. Despite that, the board said it was concerned about whether Mr. Fletcher had the wherewithal to support mortgages and expenses on his various properties.
The Dakota questioned whether the amount Mr. Fletcher%E2%80%99s firm said it managed %E2%80%94 $492 million %E2%80%94 was vastly overstated, with some assets counted twice; whether the financial statements he submitted were objective, since they seemed to have been produced by people who worked for him; and whether his income %E2%80%94 his 2007 and 2008 tax returns showed adjusted gross income of about $700,000 a year %E2%80%94 was enough to meet his obligations. (Mr. Fletcher said he did not submit his wife%E2%80%99s returns because he thought his own income and assets sufficed.)
%E2%80%9CBy claiming racial discrimination, challenging the board%E2%80%99s good-faith exercise of its fiduciary duty to shareholders, and creating adverse publicity, plaintiff is attempting to compel the board to approve an apartment purchase that the board has twice voted would subject the corporation and its shareholders to unacceptable financial risk,%E2%80%9D the board wrote.
In the interview, Mr. Fletcher said that the firm assets reported to the board were just fee-earning assets, and that the firm manages about $1.6 billion, with a portfolio that includes tracts of distressed California real estate and a pool of treasury bonds.
Mr. Fletcher said the income reported on his tax returns was not a true picture of his earnings, and that he had millions of dollars in deferred compensation.
He said he was highly offended that his philanthropic pledges had been questioned last year. He stopped to compose himself, his eyes closed and lips quivering as he spoke of board members who were trying to %E2%80%9Cdefame the things I%E2%80%99m trying to do in the world with my success.%E2%80%9D
His lawsuit, he said, %E2%80%9Cis a very carefully analyzed pursuit of what%E2%80%99s right.%E2%80%9D
%E2%80%9CMy father grew up in the segregated South,%E2%80%9D he said. %E2%80%9CHe had guns pointed at his head. I just have these people to deal with.%E2%80%9D
- A multimillionaire with co-op problems, such a problem!\
Jeez, this guy has such major heavy duty problems we can all relate to, you''re kidding me, right? You realize this man can''t buy ANOTHER apartment! Gee, I hope he''ll be alright! Because his wife and kid need MORE room!\
Most people these days don''t know where their next paycheck is coming from, let alone whether or not they can keep their small over priced apartments or their crappy houses!\
Give me a break, I don''t need to read about the problems of the wealthy.\
Did you just hear how low A-Rod''s property taxes are on his Manhattan co-op apartment? Now that''s something people should be reading about!\
He pays less property taxes than I do on my co-op. Talk about a joke.
- There''s been a thread on this before, but whatever. \
Ok - I know he''s probably a smart guy and has been good with money blah blah blah BUT two items: \
1) He basically got his start with a windfall agreement of over $1 million based on racial discrimination lawsuit he filed (that KP \
2) Filed another racial lawsuit against the Dakota and called them racist for a FIFTH APARTMENT he wanted to buy, then gets his panties in a wad because they fire back about his unsound financial situation\
Sounds like when he doesn''t get his way he screams racism. Nobody likes that.
- I know the guy. I definitely believe the allegations of sexual advances; no question.
- He''s seems like a trip. But a fun one.
- He''s fun but it''s impossible to get to know him. He''s unreliable, to say the least. His friends are really acquaintances.
- "of gay Dakota resident"\
why didn''t you say "of black Dakota resident," it''s really just as stupid and offensive, when you think about it.
- 1st Floor. *snort*
- Handsome as a high school student (from the Times profile), but he''s aged terribly.\
It''s a weird life he''s pursued so strenuously. While I would like to live in the Dakota, the other things--the endless litigation, the chauffeur-driven fancy cars, playing "Purple Rain" on the piano for singalongs with Anne Deavere Smith and Anita Hill, the sexual harassment (then buying off) of staff--seem fairly ridiculous.
- [italic] "It''s a pledge, not a commitment"?!?!?[/italic]\
That ashy queen.
- I haven''t seen him since the whole marriage and kid thing but I''ve never believed he was happy.
- So he''s gay and married to a woman?
- Yes, R14, but she''s Asian.
- What''s wrong with being gay and also married to a woman?!?
Kelly Klein and Diane von Furstenburg
- Lost me at "gay and married to a woman." Everything about this guy screams major douchebag. And he has used racism to get ahead all his life, obviously. Well, I guess you use the available tools. But you can''t always piss off everyone and always get your way. All the time. Looks like he has hit a wall, literally. Good. As another poster stated, most people are wondering where their next paycheck or meal is coming from and this tool is bitching because he can''t buy yet ANOTHER apartment. As someone said to Doris Duke once during the Depression, "I hope someone throws acid in your face."
- Merchants are their own country
- [quote] So he''s gay and married to a woman?%0D\
Turkey baster marriage so he has a kid to leave all that money to. If he doesn''t blow through it by the time the kid is 18.
- He sounds like a nutter, but at least he gives money away to charities, unlike, say, the Bush family, who only give to Bush libraries or donate items from Bush-based businesses which require the recipients to buy even more Bush business items.
- What r17 said. I was just about to post the same thing. %0D\
So you''re throwing a tantrum because they won''t let you buy a FOURTH apartment in one of the most expensive and exclusive buildings in New York? Cry me a fucking river, douche. He should be exiled to a studio in Bensonhurst. Then he''d have something to bitch about.
- "Human beings aren''t so simple that you can characterize them as straight or gay," said Mr. Fowlkes, Mr. Fletcher''s former companion."\
Oh, please. Some people are bi, but to make sweeping statements like that is moronic.\
This guy comes off like someone obsessed with his image. I wouldn''t be surprised if the wife and kid are just props to help his career. Otherwise, he and his "companion" (I can''t believe anyone still uses that word) would be relegated to the status of Daniel Benedict and his BF (whose name escapes me now, thank goodness).
- Major stunt queen.
- r22, Andrew Saffir.
- He put the nail in his own coffin by leaving chauffered driven limos idling at the curb.\
You can only throw some much bullshit around at The Dakota before someone is going to call you on it.
- So when he did decide to marry a woman, he chose an Asian? How Tiger Woods/Wesley Snipies of him.
- Tiger Woods did not marry an Asian.
- R23 = BINGO
- I think good for him! Don''t hate him and if you take some time and learn the story...his first windfall as some foolish person put it was not from a racial suit. In fact he was a millionaire at that time...and he actually sued for the 3MILLION kidder owed him and was only given 1MILLION. You want to know who gets "Windfalls" on Wall Street...check out some of the white women and then you have a story. But the reality is sexism and racism are still alive. And believe me no one is giving ANY woman, BLACK person, or Gay a free ride on Wall St...try again.
- Lol at R26, getting his racial stereotypes wrong. Try again sucker.
- Oh dear.
- Has Rex Reed weighed in on this?
- In the pic at the link, his hands look enormous. I bet Fletch is packing major meat.
- R27 -- no, you''re right; Tiger''s *father* married an Asian. Tiger married a white girl. What''s your point?
- Now this:
- picture = mary!
- I don't see the problem. But I understand the hateful rumors. My personal assistant Benji had to undergo the same treatment.
- In the thread title, I misread his name as "Buddy Felcher."
- The Dakota only has only had two black residents/shareholders in its history, Fletcher and Roberta Flack?! That's truly shocking, and sobering. I'd be interested to know the history of black applicants being rejected.
- sounds like he's a meth queen.
- Roberta Flack lives at the Dakota? I didn't know she had that kind of money.
- Too much information about a person whom I cared less and less about the more I read. The marriage and sexual advances to men (while once identifying as gay)tell me Buddy Fletcher is not worth all that space in the NY Times.
- Any black person with money in New York knows that Buddy Fletcher is a lecherous gay dude who wields accusations of racism like a cudgel whenever he doesn't get his way.
The Dakota took in a snake and now is dealing with the consequences. The sad part is how media continues to genuflect to this fraud just because he suits their preferred storyline of "White people keeping a black man down."
- Speaking from personal experience, Hobart Fowlkes Jr. is nothing but an angry, vindictive, vengeful piece of crap. He's got absolutely nothing productive to focus on, and the guy is a complete and utter LOSER-TO-THE-MAX - a total waste of space and completely useless to society in general. :-O
- R45, how do you know him?
- I know him too R45 - and although I have not seen him in a while - you are full of shit.
- Everyone knows Hobie.
- Yeah, because everyone calls him hobie.
He is not a bad guy.
- Gurl, please.
- And now that quiet Asian wife is suing and it's a huge Sil Valley story, but she's now also a HUGE GRIFTER like Buddy Fletcher, read the Fortune article about them BOTH here, written in 2012
- Come on, no takers to the latest story?
- You meed to copy the story in the thread, R51, the way OP did. Links are bothersome and take too long to load.
- [quote]Links are bothersome and take too long to load.
OH PLEASE. You're just a lazy piece of shit.
- Why do you post an article from 2012?