| Przemysław Krych, CEO of Griffin Group, plans to fight for Emilia|
Courtesy of Griffin Group
Karolina Kowalska: Your conflict with Warsaw City Hall over the Emilia building has made international headlines. The property that you bought was registered as a "historical monument" several hours after you closed the transaction and paid the money. In response, you terminated your firm's contract with the city to host the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw. City officials claim that their breach of contract is marginal and you are in the wrong. What is your view?
Przemysław Krych: There are two separate issues here: the "historical significance" of Emilia is one. Another is the contractual relationship with the Museum of Modern Art. Let me explain it this way. Imagine you bought an apartment and its interiors were not exactly to your liking. You rent it out and the tenant says that it's so beautiful it should be in the city's registry of historic buildings. That is what the Museum of Modern Art has done.
How do you know this is the case?
We have the official letter from museum's director, Joanna Mytkowska, to the city's conservation architect Piotr Brabander, in which Ms Mytkowska asked for conservation recommendations for the building, which had never been registered as a monument. It was only entered in the register on September 18, almost two weeks later.
Have you pointed this out to city officials?
To their utter astonishment. The city expected us to walk away with our tails between our legs and do nothing about it. Clearly, they underestimated us. We can fight for our rights even if it means taking the Republic of Poland to the Arbitration Tribunal in Stockholm. It's obvious what the verdict will be.
Meanwhile, the city accuses you of unlawfully terminating the contract ...
Which is another absurdity. City officials claim that their failure to fulfill very important obligations specified in the contract is insignificant. If they are not aware of its importance, they might want to consider a phone call to a notary.
Some observers say that one way to put an end to the conflict would be to simply weld the doors shut and not allow the museum to operate in the building anymore. You own it, after all.
Frankly speaking, it could be out of my hands. Griffin Group runs an investment fund with capital coming from all over the world. I have fiduciary duties and I am obliged to do what the investors decide. If they decide to close the place down, I would have to do it.
But for now you are waiting for things to develop?
Unlike city officials, I have plenty of time and I can afford to wait. We have not invested borrowed money, nobody can make us start building now or in the next 12 months and threaten to stop the financing if we don't. Unlike the city, we can wait.
What is more, I daresay, the city's actions aren't the best publicity for the Polish capital. If the city wants to be presented at the MIPIM real estate fair in Cannes this March with a banner saying: "Don't invest in Warsaw, they will fool you there," they can certainly expect it - that is, if they continue down their current path.
The conflict over Emilia has overshadowed other Griffin investments, hasn't it?
In terms of our business scale the matter is completely marginal. We invested EUR138 million of equity capital in Poland last year and this year we want to invest up to EUR200 million.
We plan residential investments in Bemowo and in Powsin, where we intend to build an upper-class housing estate. We've completed the Feniks office building and we are currently preparing for the construction of another office building at the corner of ul. Żelazna and ul. Ogrodowa in Warsaw.
We've started the Hala Koszyki restoration project and improvement work in Dom Handlowy Renoma in Wrocław. We have recently won tenders for two fully leased office buildings in the capital.
We have a lot of business on our hands right now, we think big and I can assure you that Griffin Group will be heard of not only in the context of the Emilia controversy.
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