A major New York real estate developer—and onetime owner of a mansion dubbed the “Taj Mahal of Long Island”—is being sued by his 44-year-old son, who claims he was pushed out of the family business after a jealous office rival managed to drive a wedge between them.
Scott Burman says the already “frosty” relationship between him and his father, Jan Burman, was damaged even further by a partner at the firm angling for his job, according to a $14 million lawsuit obtained by The Daily Beast. The complaint says the man was envious of Scott’s success and became especially upset when Scott was designated Jan’s successor at Engel Burman, the firm Jan started in 1999.
After the rival convinced Jan that Scott and his wife “failed to spend enough time with him or properly acknowledge his role as family patriarch,” the real-life Shakespearean drama culminated with Scott being shunted aside last fall, by way of Jan starting a new company behind his back, according to the complaint.
“In short, Scott was gaslighted—while the Individual Defendants surreptitiously created a new company to which they would transfer EB’s business, assets and good will [sic],” it says.
Reached by phone on Wednesday, Jan Burman said he was unaware of the litigation before The Daily Beast contacted him for comment. Offered a brief summary of the complaint, he laughed but declined to say anything further.
Scott Burman could not immediately be reached for comment. His attorneys, Lisa Solbakken and Robert Angelillo, said in an email, “We can confirm that we represent Scott Burman. We believe that the filed complaint speaks for itself and we have no further comment at this time.”
A spokesman for Jan’s new company told The Daily Beast, “We cannot comment on a lawsuit we have not yet seen nor had an opportunity to study.”
If you live in the Tri-State area and are of a certain age, you may have visited an elderly family member in an Engel Burman development. Over the past quarter-century, the company has made its reputation in assisted-living facilities throughout New York City, New Jersey, Westchester County, and Long Island. Jan has also built a public profile that includes a 2020 appearance on the Netflix series Million-Dollar Beach House, a spread the following year in House Beautiful, and at least one newspaper feature on his and his wife’s “favorite flatware.”
After earning a degree in business at New York University, Scott joined Engel Burman in 2001. His complaint says he grew the company’s property portfolio to some $3 billion thanks to what Scott describes as his own tireless efforts.
“There can be no meaningful dispute that Scott was critical to the growth and success of the parties’ enterprise,” says the complaint, which was filed with the lawsuit on Wednesday in New York State Supreme Court.
It contends that Scott “personally sourced and managed hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate business and transactions and invested not less than $5 million” into the company. He was also behind a “comprehensive communications initiative” that included a corporate rebrand, a revamped company website, new “employee retention efforts,” and the “development of a (much needed) well-articulated corporate culture,” according to the complaint.
The work Scott was doing attracted notice from institutional investors that resulted in lucrative commercial projects that would not have been possible without him, the complaint claims. In January 2014, Scott was named president of Engel Burman’s construction division, expanding its ranks to more than 100 employees.
Scott kept forging ahead, overhauling the Engel Burman corporate structure and implementing “sorely needed organizational protocols and controls (financial and otherwise),” according to the complaint. In a practical sense, the complaint says Scott’s work enabled Engel Burman to just about quadruple its business in less than five years.
However, Scott’s success fostered “contempt” among the firm’s entrenched old guard. And his relationship with one partner in particular became especially tense.
Steven Krieger (and “perhaps” others) was “threatened by Scott’s efforts to grow and modernize EB’s operation,” the complaint says, pinning the pushback on Krieger’s concerns that his own influence within the company might become diminished. So, according to the complaint, Krieger began to meddle in Scott’s projects, “often with disastrous results.” (Krieger has not responded to a request for comment.)
Krieger’s “help” led to cost overruns, missed deadlines, and personal financial exposure for Scott when investors in one project refused to kick in additional funds, according to the complaint. But Scott’s successes were clear to Jan, who approached him last year about taking on even more responsibility.
“Jan told Scott that he envisioned for Scott the assumption of an overall leadership role for the entire EB organization, stating that he was ‘clearly the member most fit to lead and grow the organization into the future,’” the complaint states. “Scott agreed.”
Outside consultants began organizing the logistics of the succession plan, his complaint says. Engel Burman employees were on board with the plan, as was the wider real estate community, according to the complaint.
“This development was entirely unwelcome, however, by one person in particular—namely, Steven Krieger,” it states.
And that’s when Krieger started to ice Scott out of his father’s firm altogether, according to the complaint. During an “emergency meeting” with the Engel Burman partners in June 2022, Krieger announced that “he would no longer partner with Scott on any future opportunities within the organization.” Krieger “sought to isolate Scott, whom he viewed as his only legitimate rival for the leadership position,” the complaint states.
Jan was beginning to plan his retirement and had moved to Florida, which Krieger “exploit[ed]” in pursuing his “ultimate goal of divesting Scott of his influence and interests,” according to the complaint.
At this point, other executives began to exclude Scott too, it claims.
“Construction employees were told not to price projects for Scott, operations employees were told not to provide Scott information, and enterprise leaders who were viewed as aligned with Scott were swiftly fired,” the complaint says.
Meanwhile, Jan and the other Engel Burman partners “surreptitiously created” a new company called B2K, without telling Scott.
When B2K was eventually unveiled in November 2022, Scott’s name was notably absent from the leadership team. He declined to comment when a Long Island media outlet asked him about the omission. However, according to the complaint, B2K is new in name only.
It claims that Jan’s new firm is simply a rebranded version of the old one: It is situated in Engel Burman offices, and the old business’ website redirects to B2K’s. The firm’s employees are also the same, the complaint alleges.
Scott Burman says he was pressured to sign documents related to a new LLC—though he claims he was only presented “a collection of signature pages”—causing him to suspect he was being manipulated in an “information void.” He insists that, until the court steps in to save him, the defendants are continuing “to pilfer for their own benefit [his] investments and opportunities.”
Despite Scott’s years of service, he complains he has not been offered “a single penny,” even though he was “stripped… of the company and [the] value he spent his entire professional career creating.”
“This is not because of any purported wrongdoing on the part of Scott,” the complaint states. “It is because of the Individual Defendants unmitigated hubris and greed.”
In addition to $14 million in money damages, Scott is asking for attorneys’ fees and punitive damages to be determined by a jury.