Both firms opened offices in downtown Fort Lauderdale around the same time — at Las Olas City Centre. Both jockeyed with the landlord for top billing on the street-level monument sign. RRA won, and GrayRobinson got a smaller mention underneath.
"I would see Scott in the elevator," said Steve Zelkowitz, managing partner of GrayRobinson’s Miami office. "He was always friendly. He’d typically ask how things are going. We were two managing partners, and we would trade managing partner banter."
Zelkowitz said he last saw Rothstein at Bova Prime, the restaurant Rothstein owned in their office tower, two weeks before he fled the country. Zelkowitz dropped in for a late lunch, and Rothstein was sitting at the bar with a man Zelkowitz didn’t recognize, laughing and drinking a martini as if he didn’t have a care in the world. But this time, Rothstein didn’t acknowledge "his elevator buddy," as Zelkowitz puts it.
Two weeks later, Rothstein’s name was dirt. He is awaiting sentencing on charges of running a $1.2 billion fraud.
"The sheer magnitude blew us away, but we knew something other than the typical practice of law was afoot," Zelkowitz said. "If you bill 2,000 hours and charge $500 an hour, that’s $1 million. The numbers just didn’t add up. We didn’t see how they could have that much wealth."
Sharing billing on the building sign was a headache for GrayRobinson since the marker was repeatedly broadcast on every South Florida television station. The firm started getting calls from concerned clients wondering if all was OK.
But the scandal could wind up with a silver lining for GrayRobinson. The firm is negotiating for some of the space once occupied by RRA as well as top billing on the monument.
If they do get RRA’s former space, GrayRobinson will not keep Rothstein’s private elevator and high-security office.
"We weren’t even aware he had that," Zelkowitz quipped. "I hope we weren’t being charged for it as part of the common area maintenance for the building. We may have to line up at Bankruptcy Court."