RYE, NY — Jadian Capital, a real-estate investment firm founded in 2017, based in New York City, appears to be the investor behind Standard Amusements, which has a deal with Westchester County to manage Playland Amusement Park in Rye, NY.
In a vaguely-worded press release issued on July 24, 2018, and recently brought to the attention of Talk of the Sound, Jadian announced what it called “the firm’s first transaction” as a “$40 million preferred equity investment into an amusement park company (which) will be used to revitalize the company’s largest park and unlock value from its associated real estate.”
It was unclear why Jadian did not disclose the name of the amusement park company or the location of the property when using the deal to attract investors through a press release but the description of the deal appears to suggest the property is Rye Playland.
Jarret Cohen formed Jadian Capital in 2017 upon leaving Fir Tree Partners. Cohen, a former partner at Fir Tree, ran Fir Tree’s Private Real Estate business which he established in 2010. Fir Tree’s real estate fund business was founded in 2008 by Jim Walker and Andrew Fredman both of whom left to join Cohen at Jadian Capital.
“Through this senior corporate investment, we are accessing two special assets: a trophy park with upside that our investment will help catalyze, and significantly valuable beachfront land in a major market that is prime for repositioning,” said Cohen.
According to his Jadian Capital bio, Jarrett Cohen sits on the Board of United Parks.
In a press release dated April 28, 2016 by United Parks, the company stated the Westchester County Board of Legislators had unanimously approved a $30 million deal for Nicholas Singer and his company, United Parks, and that Standard Amusements is an entity owned by United Parks.
The 2016 deal required Standard Amusements to pay Westchester County $2.25 million up front, and invest an additional $27.75 million within five years to refurbish the park. Westchester County would continue to own Playland but the park will be operated under an agreement with United Parks.
Calls and emails to both Jadian Capital and Standard Amusements were not returned. A woman at Jadian Capital confirmed Cohen had received a prior message seeking comment from Talk of the Sound but, she said, he was too busy to call back.
A plan to “reposition” Playland property as “significantly valuable beachfront land” is precisely the sort of backroom maneuvering Rye and Westchester County residents have feared since former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino announced a lease deal that would turn over management of Playland to Nicholas Singer of Harrison, NY. Singer formed Standard Amusements as a vehicle through which to get control of Playland.
How and why Jadian Capital has told investors it would be able to “reposition” property leased to Standard Amusements for sale as beachfront property remains unclear.
Jadian’s website says the “Firm seeks overlooked or misunderstood investment themes related to real estate in order to generate the most attractive risk-adjusted returns available.”
The Jadian transactions web page lists a series of “representative transactions” which were actually completed “prior to Jadian’s formation, during Jadian’s senior team members’ tenure at Fir Tree Partners.”
All except one image, that of a roller coaster and a Ferris Wheel, represent previously completed Fir Tree deals. The Ferris Wheel depicted, a covered gondola type, is the same type Playland has.
In 2015, Astorino announced a 30-year deal under which Standard Amusements would manage Playland. The deal came after a previous deal with a non-profit, Sustainable Playland, fell apart. With the election of Westchester County Executive George Latimer the Standard Amusements deal has been re-evaluated with the County recently accusing the company of failing to live up to its commitments under the deal.
UPDATE 3/5: In response to a request for comment from Westchester County Executive George Latimer, spokesperson Catherine Cioffi said she had no personal knowledge of the above report by Talk of the Sound. She added that Playland was a crown jewel of Westchester and the CE was dedicated to protecting it from condos or strip malls.
UPDATE 3/5: Kevin FitzGerald of Gasthalter & Co., a strategic communications and media relations firm, that represents Standard Amusements declined to address questions about whether the company and project described in the July 2018 press release by Jadian Capital Standard Amusements/United Parks and Rye Playland. “That’s a pretty thin connection,” said FitzGerald when asked about the connection. FitzGerald said his client was a private company and did not have to disclose its investors.
UPDATE 3/6: Assemblyman Steve Otis issued the following response to our request for comment:
“Playland is protected by state law as parkland. It cannot be developed for commercial purposes without legislation to remove parkland protection. The amusement park, shoreline walk and connected nature areas are treasures. As the State Assemblyman representing the Sound Shore, I give my guarantee that there will be no parkland alienation of Playland or other shoreline parkland properties.”
UPDATE 3/6: State Senator Shelley Mayer issued the following response to our request for comment:
UPDATE 3/6: Requests for comment made yesterday to various relevant elected officials with Playland in their district or jurisdiction have still received no response.
- Westchester County Leg. Catherine Parker
- Rye Mayor Josh Cohn
Follow up requests for comment on information linking Jarret Cohn directly to Nicholas Singer have still received no response:
- Westchester County Executive George Latimer
- Kevin FitzGerald, PR guy for Singer’s companies