Giuseppe Cipriani: ‘I’m Not on the Lam’

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Giuseppe Cipriani Photo: Patrick McMullan

Vanity Fair tracks down Arrigo Cipriani and his son Giuseppe now that its been a year since his empire was forced to cough up $500,000 to the SLA for tax violations (shortly after that, an aide to the governor was accused of exerting pressure on the SLA to renew Ciprianis liquor license). First, some fun facts about Giuseppe as a child.

He was always full of energya lot of headaches for us, Ill tell you, Arrigo says of his sons wild youth. At 13 he looked 18, says Giuseppes sister Giovanna. Older women would kidnap the boy for dirty weekends, says Arrigo, and Giuseppes sister Carmela calls him a Latin loverlike Casanova.

From there, the piece recaps the rise of the Cipriani empire, including the purchase of 55 Wall Street and their controversial union-busting upon taking over the Rainbow Room.

In Milan one morning in 1997, Arrigo saw in the Corriere della Sera the headline Cipriani buys 55 Wall Street for $28 million. I didnt have a penny, Arrigo tells me, so I called Giuseppe and said, What are you doing? And he says, Dont worry. Thats what he always says, Dont worry.

Arrigo claims that everything was smooth sailing until the Ciprianis won a contract to do their $154 million project, Leonardo at Pier 57, near Chelsea Piers. The Ciprianis believe that Roland Betts, the Chelsea Piers developer who was competing for the contract, used his connections (to George W. Bush, among other people) to get state and city authorities on their case, and to out supposed mob ties. Whether or not Betts was responsible for the investigations (he has claimed he was not), it was all downhill from there. After an anonymous letter tipped off Robert Morgenthaus office to underreported revenues, the family ended up signing a plea bargain agreeing to pay $10 million for tax evasion.

Giuseppe left New York in the fall of 2008, and neither he nor Arrigo have been back since (advisers have told them they might be put in jail), but they both insist they arent on the lam. Meanwhile, Giuseppe has plenty of other projects to work on.

The bust has hardly broken him; bigger is still better for Giuseppe Cipriani, who insists hes going forward with a fantastic half-million-square-foot Cipriani hotel, restaurant, catering facility, and residential tower in Miamis South Beach. Hell break ground on a 100-suite Cipriani hotel and catering facility in São Paulo in March. Hes opening a restaurant, hotel, and ballroom in Istanbul, then a restaurant in Moscow. The Miami project is huge, the best project on South Beach, he says. And if you look at the new projects, theyre probably bigger than all the ones weve built up to now.

And, rest assured, hell be back in New York once his lawyers work all this out.

I can go back. I will go back. Ive lived in the United States since 1985. I employed thousands of people in the U.S. I paid millions in taxes in the U.S. The crime that I was convicted of was a plea deal with Robert Morgenthau. Usually, when you plead to something, it means that you make a deal. So we made a deal. And thats why I will go back to New York.

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