BY BUDDY NEVINS
Scott Rothstein has heard the rumors, the talk, the disparaging remarks.
His Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm’s business plan doesn’t make sense in a faltering economy. Rothstein is expanding too fast.
Then there is his personal life. He’s spending too much. He’s too showy, ostentatious. Like Humpty Dumpy, he’ll fall and shatter.
“My wife says I should put WD 40 all over my back so all the stuff thrown at me rolls off, Rothstein says.
It is no surprise Rothstein is attracting attention. The last person in Broward who spent money as fast and as publicly as Rothstein was Saudi Sheik Mohammed al-Fassi.
Al-Fassi, like Rothstein, was in the newspapers all the time.
Al-Fassi, 27, spent $41 million to live in 50 rooms at the Diplomat Hotel for a year in the early 1980s. He hired a force of off duty Hollywood Police as his personal guards, toured South Florida, passed out money and bought waterfront homes.
Rothstein, 46, is not in al-Fassi’s class yet. Yet.
He’s throwing millions into real estate in the face of a collapsing market — $20 million for seven homes in five years, including four in Fort Lauderdale’s pricy Castilla Isles section on the Intracoastal Waterway.
He’s buying commercial property. He’s buying restaurants when experienced restaurateurs are going belly-up in the recession.
In the works are buildings in Brooklyn. A bar on Las Olas.
Then there are the flash cars, including a Rolls, a Ferrari. And the new flash wife, drop-dead gorgeous blonde Kimberly, 34.
There are the hundreds of thousands he has doled out to Republican candidates. It’s made him a major political player in Florida.
And millions to charity. He vows that for every dollar he gives to politics, he’ll give a dollar to charity.
The latest gift, showcased in the Society section of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, was $1 million earlier this month to Holy Cross Hospital.
HIS BUSINESS PLAN
It’s all part of his business plan, he says. Making a splash is part of making a name for himself and his firm.
“To compete with the big boys, you’ve got to brand yourself, Rothstein says.
His glitzy persona is his new brand.
It all starts on Las Olas Boulevard with the law firm, which has been adding lawyers and support staff while other big firms have been forced to cut back.
“The phrase I hear is we are building a house of cards, Rothstein concedes. “To say that’s what we are building is an insult to the lawyers here… It is saying by coming to work here their judgment is flawed.
The firm has built a deep bench of major players quicker than George Steinbrenner built the Yankees in Rothstein’s birthplace of the Bronx.
Firm lawyers include Ken Padowitz, a renowned legal commentator on national TV and former prosecutor; Carlos Reyes, former South Broward Hospital District commissioner and lobbyist and Steve Abrams, former Boca Raton mayor.
Then there is William Berger, former Palm Beach circuit judge; Arthur Neiwirth, a bankruptcy expert; Grant Smith, well-known lobbyist and Les Stracher, who represents major auto dealers.
Rothstein recently added former Broward sheriff Ken Jenne days after he got out of prison on corruption charges. He also hired Barry Stone, a justice who is leaving the 4th District Court of Appeal.
The firm has 60 lawyers, with two added just this week. It has 110 in support staff. They work in 40,000 square feet of Class A office space on Las Olas Boulevard in downtown Fort Lauderdale, plus offices in other parts of Florida.
All that in only five years.
Top talent and fancy office space costs money.
Rothstein’s not worried.
“We have a tremendous client base, he points out.
He refers me to his website and indeed, many names stand out on his client list: Citicorp, J. C. Penny, Ed Morse Automotive Group, National Beverage, Silversea Cruise Lines, Supra Telecom, Wells Fargo. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Big names. No doubt, big bucks.
THE JEWISH KID FROM THE BRONX
Not bad for a Jewish kid from the Bronx. He remembers playing on Arthur Avenue, the heart of the Bronx’s Little Italy.
He wasn’t poor. But he wasn’t rich, except in family love.
Five story brick walk-ups with fire escapes hanging over the street. Restaurants like Enzo’s and Dominick’s. Stores like Calabria Pork Store.
It’s a long way from there to Lauderhill, where the Rothstein’s family moved in 1977. It’s a long way from Lauderhill to Las Olas.
“It’s been a hell of a ride, Rothstein says.
He’s never forgotten where he came from. It might surprise those who only know Rothstein’s Bronx exterior that he calls himself a “religious person.
He lays tafillin. (Tafillin are two small leather boxes containing prayers that religious Jews fasten with straps to the head and left arm during morning prayers.)
He doesn’t attribute his success to religion. He says religion has kept him “strongly grounded to do the hard work necessary to succeed.
The road to riches was not all hard work. It was a lot of luck, too.
Luck like meeting Charlie Crist in the 1990s, who introduced him to Republican politics. Showed him the ropes. He says he now talks to Crist regularly, gives the governor advice.and helps him raise cash.
“I have tremendous resources for candidates through a strong Republican client base, he says.
Crist helped put him on the map in politics. Made him a go-to person. Made him somebody.
Others says they have been in the room when Crist calls Rothstein. The conversation sounds like two old friends, trading ideas and small talk.
Today, the spending, the politics, the regular pictures of him at charity events in the society pages, the law firm collecting lawyers like so many baseball cards, have made him a center of attraction.
As The Broward Palm Beach New Times said earlier this month in a profile of the fast-rising lawyer, Rothstein has the town talking.
Some of that talk is dark. Rumors swirl around. Rothstein has an answer for that, too.
“My family said that the higher you get on the poll, the more people see your ass. You better be sure your ass is clean, Rothstein says. “My ass is clean.