NEW YORK (TIP): Kabul Chawla, the owner of real estate firm BPTP, rose to fame when his company outbid DLF in buying a land parcel in Noida for over Rs 5,000 crore in 2008. It was one of the biggest land deals at that time. However, it quickly became untenable as the real estate sector went into a tailspin and Chawla had to dispose of a large chunk of the land at a discount.
In 2015, he has grabbed the headlines once again for buying a condominium in a super-luxury apartment in New York for over $19 million. The deal has thrown Chawla in the spotlight, but this time it has cast an unsavory light.
Chawla’s real estate company in India is facing the ire of consumers over delivery delays and poor quality of construction. At the heart of it is a project meant for military officers in Gurgaon. His company has collected over 100 per cent of the price from about 400 buyers for the project which is estimated to be worth $35 million. But even six years later it has not been completed. BPTP has also pre-sold 10,685 apartments and 5,657 residential plots in a project named Parklands. But even here vacant plots greet buyers.
The company’s website, which was last updated in 2012, lists about 18 residential projects and six commercial projects in the National Capital Region. According to an earlier release, BPTP was implementing over 12 projects on nearly 2,500 acres that together generated sales of $1.6 billion. However, most of its 22,000 customers have been left high and dry, with their life-savings stuck in incomplete projects.
What has left buyers particularly aggrieved is that Chawla has been busy amassing a fortune in the US. Of the 192 condos at the Time Warner Center, nearly two-thirds are owned by him through shell companies, according to a New York Times investigation. The latest deal is a 4,050 sq ft condominium with five bedrooms, a media/playroom and soaring ceilings on the 68th floor of the in the south tower of the Time Warner complex. While Chawla has denied owning the apartment, The New York Times investigation says it was bought by him in 2012. The investigators have unearthed correspondence among real estate brokers involved in the apartment’s purchase, as well as other sources, tying the condo to him.
Born and brought up in Karnal in Haryana, Chawla started BPTP from scratch and built a name for himself in less than five years. His peers in the industry saw him as a dynamic builder who understood every aspect of the business, be it construction, law or design. He is also known to be deeply religious and loves going on thanksgiving trips to the shrine of Vaishnodevi and other holy places following a mega deal.
Many say he acquired a good land bank well before the slowdown started but he began to falter because of his habit of playing fast and loose. “Funds from one project were diverted to launching another project and projects were abandoned midway, leading to the downfall of the company,” says a real estate consultant.