Head Of Miami CRE Firm Accused Of Sexual Misconduct — Again
Terranova is one of South Florida’s big CRE firms, having served as exclusive agent for more than $5B worth of properties and with holdings of about $1B in assets, according to its website. The company was founded in 1981 by Stephen Bittel, who sits on various boards and gives substantial sums to nonprofit groups. But over the past year, Bittel has gained notoriety for his conduct rather than his deals.
Five months later, as the #MeToo movement gained steam, Politico reported that Bittel was known for making sexually suggestive remarks, like inviting women in his plane or to his house. He reportedly kept a breast-shaped stress squeeze-ball on his desk. Bittel apologized in the wake of the story.
Another blow for Bittel came Friday. Andrea Molina, who worked for five years as Terranova’s director of acquisitions, filed a civil lawsuit alleging that Bittel sexually harassed her, the Miami New Times reports. Molina alleged that Bittel described pornography that he liked and the pubic hair of women he’d slept with.
“He frequently referred to himself as a 'sapiosexual,' or a person sexually attracted to intelligence,” the lawsuit states.
Molina alleged that Bittel made demeaning remarks during her pregnancy and later invited her to Victoria’s Secret. The complaint alleges that “Bittel kept a taxidermied Chihuahua ‘with grossly large testicles’" in his office and that his vanity license plate read "GR8 SHAG."
Molina was fired in 2018. She alleged that her firing was retaliation as Bittel searched for women who had spoken negatively about him to reporters.
Bittel’s office put out a statement saying that the lawsuit is “sensationalistic and overblown.”
"This complaint comes from someone who, by their own admission, has lived beyond their means and been unable to meet their financial obligations," Bittel's office stated. "In this case, revisionist history is being used in an attempt to leverage Stephen Bittel for a financial windfall.
"Stephen Bittel has acknowledged and repeatedly apologized for past inappropriate comments, for which he suffered very public consequences. He has since corrected this behavior, but past history has left him vulnerable to accusations."