Prominent business manager to celebrities agrees to settle escrow scheme suit for $3 million in SDIL

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Jan 21, 2015

A prominent New York business manager for celebrities agreed last week to settle a suit alleging he participated in an escrow scheme, thus avoiding trial that had been set for Jan. 28 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

On Jan. 14, Bert Padell confessed to a judgment in favor of Air Energy Global, Inc., settling negligence claims for $3 million.

Air Energy originally filed the lawsuit in Madison County Circuit Court in 2012 against Padell and Napoleon L. Grier, the owners of Napoleon Grier Enterprises.

The suit claimed Napoleon Grier Enterprises agreed to finance an Air Energy project in August 2011 but failed to complete its end of the deal.

Air Energy claimed it was instructed by the firm to transfer a $1 million funding fee to Padell’s account and was told a closing agreement would be issued within five days of the transfer.

The lawsuit alleged that pursuant to that contract, the defendants agreed to make $10 million available at the time of the closing agreement. If the agreement was not reached, the full funding fee was to be returned, according to Air Energy.

Air Energy alleged that the closing agreement was never created, the additional funds were never made available and the funding fee was never returned.

In addition to settling negligence allegations, court records filed last week also show that Air Energy agreed to dismiss with prejudice other claims against Padell including breach of contract, assumpsit, conversion, civil conspiracy, concert of action, RICO and breach of fiduciary duty.

Co-defendant Bruce Baldinger was not involved in the Padell settlement and has not yet been released from the lawsuit, although related court records reflect that Air Energy has reached a confidential settlement with Baldinger.

"We’ve reached settlements ... but it’s still an ongoing case," said Aaron G. Weishaar of Reinert Weishaar & Associates, P.C. in St. Louis, attorney for Air Energy. "We’ve got a long road ahead of us.”

U.S. District Judge Staci M. Yandle has scheduled a default judgment hearing for Jan. 28 against defendants Napoleon Grier, Napoleon Grier Enterprises, Petrash Capital, LLC, Benjamin Privitt and Susette McDaniel Harris, also known as Jade Harris.

Weishaar said he doesn’t know where some of the other defendants are, but said they “essentially disappeared."

Padell – an investor, business manager and career planner – serves as a senior partner of Padell, Nadell, Fine, Weinberge & Co. in New York, an accounting and business management firm for the entertainment industry. More specifically, Padell is a business planning expert, assisting clients with retirement planning, business opportunities and financial decisions.

In a bio on Padell, Bloomberg Businessweek reports that he has served more than 1,000 clients, including Madonna, Oprah, Brittney Spears, Pink Floyd, Joe DiMaggio, Alice Cooper, Robert DeNiro and Vera Wang, among others.

He also is a member of the advisory board for Straight Up Brands, Inc., which produces, markets and distributes alcoholic beverages branded with celebrities from the various entertainment industries.

Padell surrendered his law license two years ago.

A May 2013 voluntary resignation order out of the Supreme Court of New York’s Appellate Division states that no complaints or charges of professional misconduct were pending against him at the time. Instead, it says Padell chose to forfeit his law license because he does not practice law in New York and did not want to continue paying the registration fee.

Blue Puppy Solutions of Highland also is an active defendant in the suit.

Yandle canceled a jury trial and instead set a status conference for Wednesday to discuss remaining issues pertaining to Blue Puppy Solutions.

Steven M. Cohen of Berger Cohen & Brandt, Padell's attorney, said his client's settlement is confidential and he could not provide any additional comments outside of the information included in court documents.

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