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.