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David Winzelberg //July 19, 2023
Oheka Castle in Huntington. / Photo by Judy Walker
Global investment firm buys Oheka debt in takeover bid
Oheka Castle in Huntington. / Photo by Judy Walker

David Winzelberg //July 19, 2023
A major global investment firm is the newest player in Oheka Castle’s long-running foreclosure saga. 
An affiliate of Taconic Capital Advisors purchased the property’s debt at an auction in May and closed on the deal at the end of last month. The price was not disclosed, but sources say it was bought at a significant discount from the current loan total of about $50 million. 
An executive of the brokerage firm that handled the sale of the Oheka debt said Taconic Capital, which has offices in Manhattan and London, beat out about a dozen bidders from all over the country in purchasing the loan. 
“There was certainly a lot of competition,” said David Tobin, senior managing director for Mission Capital Advisors, a subsidiary of Marcus & Millichap, which specializes in loan sales. “It’s a great asset, it’s iconic. I think the catering business has rebounded and it’s making money.” 
In fact, in the six months from Dec. 2022 through May 2023, Oheka’s revenue totaled more than $5.42 million, according to court filings in the foreclosure case against Kahn Property Owner and its principal Gary Melius. 
The foreclosure action was initiated in June 2016 by lender U.S. Bank National Association, after Melius defaulted on a $28 million commercial mortgage-backed securities loan for the 22-acre Huntington property. The original complaint charged that the borrower stopped making payments on the debt in the fall of 2015 and hasn’t made any payments since, according to subsequent court filings. 
As the foreclosure case dragged on, the frustrated lender and its special loan servicing firm put the debt on the market. A previous auction in Oct. 2022, where the Oheka debt had a minimum bid of $9 million, found no takers, but the May auction has resulted in Taconic Capital owning the debt and it is now assuming the position of Oheka’s former lender in foreclosure proceedings that were reheated, after a Feb. 2023 summary judgment ruling for the lender by Judge Elizabeth H. Emerson in Suffolk County Supreme Court. 
Executives at Taconic Capital did not respond to requests for comment on its plans for the Oheka property, however real estate sources say the firm, which specializes in distressed-debt acquisitions, will likely find a buyer in the hospitality industry to take it over once the foreclosure is completed. 
This isn’t the first time Taconic Capital has purchased distressed debt in an effort to takeover property on Long Island. The firm is part of a group led by Axonic Capital that paid a reported $28 million to acquire the $165.6 million CMBS loan for the 76-acre office campus at One CA Plaza in Islandia, which includes three main office buildings totaling more than 800,000 square feet. The group now owns the property that was once the headquarters of Computer Associates. 
Melius could not be reached for comment on the Oheka debt purchase, but in March he told LIBN that he doesn’t plan on surrendering the property to foreclosure anytime soon. 
“I held them up for seven years. Now they got a victory in court, but I’ve made a motion to re-argue so that’s going to take a while,” Melius said. “Then, my next move is, I will go through Chapter 11, and they’ll take three or four more years to get it, if they ever got it.” 
As LIBN reported this spring, the Huntington town board approved a plan pitched by Melius to build a 95-unit condo building on a portion of the castle property. However, that approval has been challenged after the neighboring Cold Spring Country Club and a Manhattan-based developer filed a lawsuit against the town and Melius, claiming that the town engaged in a “development scheme” in approving the Oheka condo plan to the detriment of the country club and its own plans for an adjacent 175-unit condo project. 
Originally built for financier Otto Kahn in 1921, the 126-room Oheka is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Cold Spring golf course and the property surrounding it that was used to develop about 300 single-family homes and the Otto Keil nursery behind the country club were all part of the original Kahn estate. 
Once used as a retirement home for the town’s municipal employees and later as the home of the Eastern Military Academy, the castle was abandoned and crumbling when Melius took ownership in 1984. Over the years, Melius claims he has spent $46 million on renovations and improvements to the Oheka property. 
The next court appearance in the property’s foreclosure case is scheduled for Thursday, July 20. 
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