BREAKING: Kania Outs Kestenbaum Over La Ronda

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carla's picture
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Posted on Tue, Sep. 15, 2009
Investor identified as La Ronda's mystery owner
By Anthony R. Wood
Inquirer Staff Writers

Image and video hosting by TinyPicThe mystery owner of La Ronda, the castle-like mansion in Bryn Mawr slated for demolition, was identified yesterday as investor Joseph D. Kestenbaum.

Hidden behind a corporation and protected by a confidentiality agreement with the seller, the current owner's identity has been a source of speculation and rumor since the villa was sold in March for $6 million and plans to raze it were made public.

Amid a last-ditch effort to save it, or at least some of its contents, the property's former owner came forward yesterday and identified Kestenbaum as the buyer.Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Arthur J. Kania, 78, who lived on the estate more than 25 years until its sale, spoke about the transaction for the first time and said that the house had been "pillaged" since the sale.

Kania said that he felt free to identify Kestenbaum because Kestenbaum had told a South Florida developer making a recent bid for the building that Kania was the seller, thus violating the confidentiality agreement.

When the property was sold, the new owners were identified as corporate partnerships - each with the name 1030 Mount Pleasant Road, La Ronda's address.

Efforts yesterday to reach Kestenbaum at his office in Plymouth Meeting and house in Penn Valley were unsuccessful....When told that Kania had identified Kestenbaum as the owner, the partnerships' attorney, Joseph C. Kuhls, said he would neither "confirm nor deny" that Kestenbaum was the purchaser.

In an interview two weeks ago, Kuhls said: "I am not aware of Mr. Kestenbaum's involvement in any of these corporations. I don't know Mr. Kestenbaum."

The 80-year-old villa has been a source of anxiety for preservationists who fear that it could be razed. A township demolition permit becomes effective Oct. 1. The house is the last commission of famed architect Addison Minzer, and is more evocative of the houses he designed in Florida than its location on the Main Line.

So....Arthur Kania, in an unexpected turn of events, has now outed the name we have all heard for months: Joseph D. Kestenbaum. We all have known this name for months, but you know what, we weren't the ones who had to say it. Even commissioners have known this name.

So Arthur Kania, you have taken a step towards redemption now, have you? Will it count if it's too little too late, or will you file an injunction against Kestenbaum?

So the wife of Joseph Kestenbaum is someone who has lived in Lower Merion for a long time? Sharon Tobin Kestenbaum? Wow. So she went where? UPenn Class of 1983 and is this true? Is it true she can be found on Evite under Sharon Tobin? Is she involved at the William Penn Charter School? Is she on the board of the charity Childrens Crisis Treatment Center, and here is the entire board of trustees, so if you know someone call them and tell them to tell Sharon to sell La Ronda to Benjamin Wohl:

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Any charity the Kestenbaums support, might want to be one that some rethink going forward?

Here is Joseph's wife listed on a Penn Charter Parent List:

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You know my friend, the late Pam Levinson, was deeply committed to volunteering at Penn Charter, but she was a lover of history and historic preservation. She would have told Sharon Tobin Kestenbaum to do the right thing.

The Kestenbaums have several children - they could be happy in a restored La Ronda if their parents had vision, right?

And isn't it ironic that this couple does things like deliver food to the less fortunate with other couples at Har Zion, yet won't perform the greatest mitzvah of all time and save La Ronda? As a matter of fact will all mitzvahs ever performed by either one of them be undone if La Ronda comes down?

So now as those of Jewish faith prepare for Rosh Hashanah, how will the Kestenbaums atone to those they have wronged over La Ronda? How will they atone to an entire community, or say the spirit of Addison Mizner? How will the Kestenbaums find forgiveness on Yom Kippur (the day of atonement) if they have not sought and received the same from their fellow man?

Will the Kestebaums be destroying La Ronda stone by stone during the high holidays? Wow, I am not Jewish, but I hear that is a big deal.

So what does Joseph do? Why he is the guy at the helm of Marsh Hawk Capital, right?

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But don't forget the role of Recycling the Past in this, right? They have a show on DIY network?

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Matt White of Operation Salvage is a D.I.Y. network pin-up boy?Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Wow, this is sure a lot to think about. Thanks Philadelphia Inquirer!

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ardmorekim's picture
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Great searching, Carla. The disregard of history and heritage by Kestenbaum is stunning. And the hypocrisy of him and his wife putting forward a public face supporting preservation and surreptitiously pillaging and destroying La Ronda while hidden behind a corporate veil is profound. For shame.

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carla's picture
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But the real question is will Kania see this as his redemption? Why not file an injunction and why didn't he before? And is it true Kania could start salvaging today? And what of the Philadelphia Museum of Art? Do the have an acquisitions policy that might preclude them from taking donations like this? After all, could this be considered along the lines of art acquired post World War II? Art that was ripped from the owners in war time? Isn't this a time of war methaphoricially speaking?

_____________________________________________________________
L'homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers/Man is born free, yet he is everywhere in chains.–Jean Jacques Rosseau. The Social Contract, 1762

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"Well behaved women rarely make history" - Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

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La Ronda's denouement: A monument to Marsh Hawk's vision?

    "Some people see things as they are and ask why . . .

    we see things that are not, and ask why not."

_______________

1. "Joseph D. Kestenbaum, President and Chief Executive Officer," Marsh Hawk Capital Management, LLC.
2. Marsh Hawk is "a wholly owned subsidiary of ELB Capital Management, LLC,"
3. "Eric L. Blum [ELB], Chairman" and co-owner with Joseph Kestenbaum of Marsh Hawk.

(Information from www.marshhawkcm.com.)

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Profile of Kestenbaum:

Posted on Tue, Sep. 15, 2009
A profile of La Ronda's new owner
By Alan J. Heavens
Inquirer Real Estate Writer

La Ronda's buyer, Joseph D. Kestenbaum, is a high-powered private investor and entrepreneur with more than 30 years' experience in finance.

Kestenbaum, who is in his mid-50s, is president and chief executive officer of ELB Capital Management of Philadelphia and Marsh Hawk Capital Management of Plymouth Meeting....Kestenbaum did not respond to a request for an interview at his Plymouth Meeting office and no one answered the door at his residence in Penn Valley.

He founded Marsh Hawk with Eric L. Blum, who started ELB Capital. The two men were partners in Unitek USA L.L.C., a service provider to the satellite, cable, and telecommunication industries that was sold to a major private-equity firm in September 2007.

Since the sale, Kestenbaum and Blum have lent a total of $34 million to Unitek to support the company's growth....He also is chairman and chief executive officer of the Kestenbaum Family Foundation, which focuses on charitable giving. He serves on the boards of Specialized Industries, Seagrave Fire Apparatus, and Half Off America - companies in which ELB has investments.

He was listed as a contributor to the Republican National Committee in 2008.

Since 1995, Kestenbaum has been married to the former Sharon Tobin, daughter of Sylvan and Frances Tobin. Sylvan Tobin is the son of Louis Tobin, one of the founders of Fishman & Tobin, the venerable Conshohocken-based clothing manufacturer.

Sylvan Tobin, who remains a consultant to the company, was a former limited partner in the Philadelphia Flyers, and his wife ran Flyers Charities for 29 years.

Sharon Kestenbaum, a 1983 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, is active in charitable causes in the region, including the Children's Crisis Treatment Center and the Wistar Institute.

She was a contributor to the McCain-Palin Compliance Fund in 2008 and gave her occupation as executive with Bala Properties Group, listed at the same Conshohocken address as Fishman & Tobin.

The Kestenbaums are active members of Congregation Har Zion in Penn Valley. They bought their five-bedroom, four-bath, 6,400-square-foot home in Penn Valley for $516,000 in 1996.

_____________________________________________________________
L'homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers/Man is born free, yet he is everywhere in chains.–Jean Jacques Rosseau. The Social Contract, 1762

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A tour de force of a blog post, Carla!

I have posted in the past my concerns about forced historic certification, while also stating I respect historic preservation.

Kastenbaum was not forced to do anything. He had many, many options - including the most basic and obvious solution from Benjamin Wohl.

Kania is doing his back-peddling and trying to cover his tracks, but it is Kastenbaum who should be offering the community an explanation.

He has a right to do with his property as he sees fit, but when his property has so much significance to the community, any decent person would either do the right thing or explain his actions.

Since Kastenbaum seems involved in his synagogue, perhaps this old Jewish proverb is in order:

"First mend yourself, and then mend others."

=================

Brotherhood of Thieves

~ As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

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piZap.com free online photo editor, fun photo effects

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Now check this out on Newsvine:

Blue Bell firm in age-bias lawsuit
News Type: Event — Seeded on Tue Sep 23, 2008 7:18 AM EDT

_____________________________________________________________
L'homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers/Man is born free, yet he is everywhere in chains.–Jean Jacques Rosseau. The Social Contract, 1762

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Olde Good Things of Scranton, Inc is at La Ronda RIGHT NOW to salvage

And oh yes...Kestenbaum speaks - he isn't a mute after all - and he hired Merion Community Coalition's publicist?

Posted on Wed, Sep. 16, 2009
La Ronda buyer decries 'public circus'
By Derrick Nunnally
Inquirer Staff Writer

_____________________________________________________________
L'homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers/Man is born free, yet he is everywhere in chains.–Jean Jacques Rosseau. The Social Contract, 1762

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Doesn't seem like he said much at all, except to acknowledge he is the owner. No mention of the pillaging he has done so far or what he plans to do with what he has already torn from this beautiful building. Seems he's ignoring the whole issue of the historical and achitectural relevance of La Ronda. Are we to assume that Kania does indeed have the rights to the architectural elements since Kestenbaum doesn't mention that issue? The tone of the article and his comments do not suggest he wants to delay demolition. Upsetting!

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Great post, Carla. The further you dig, the more this whole thing stinks.

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