Two weeks have passed since Aaron Yashouafar escaped losing control of First National Center to a court-appointed receiver. Or at least that's the impression given by his attorneys after a $5.3 million transaction was recorded at the Oklahoma County assessor's office showing a transfer of title to Los Angeles-based Joshua Paradise Holdings LLC.
Attorneys noted the payoff of the mortgage held by Capmark Group would allow Yashouafar and his management company, Milbank Real Estate, to move forward with renovations that stalled out when the property went into foreclosure three years ago.
But is Yashouafar really still in charge? As previously reported, Joshua Paradise Holdings was created in 2006 by the Neeman family in Los Angeles.
The California Secretary of State's office shows no connection between Yashouafar and Joshua Paradise Holdings. Inquiries to Yashouafar, meanwhile, have gone unanswered.
Two weeks ago, I sent a series of questions to Yashouafar that sought to determine whether he was still in charge at First National, how he intended to operate the property if his sentencing for fraud this month in Las Vegas results in jail time, and how he thought he could move forward locally with city officials publicly stating they no longer trust him.
While the questions have gone unanswered, new signs have gone up in the building's elevators. The Milbank Real Estate name is disappearing, replaced by the name First National Center Inc.
Whoever ends up in charge at First National Center still has challenges ahead. The building's historic barbershop (dating to 1931) lost its tenants in July to the Braniff Building at SandRidge Commons.
The building's vacancy is set to climb as the lease with Devon Energy Corp., which accounted for half of its rented space, expires next summer.
Windows remain broken, restrooms are still located between floors in the historic 31-story tower, and the ornate ceiling the Great Banking Hall continues to show signs of distress.
If the Neeman brothers truly have taken over First National Center, they will likely face the sort of mistrust that will kill any effort to boost occupancy levels. Locals feel they have been misled and lied to by too many out-of-state owners. Every downtown observer I've spoken to has said they don't see a revival possible without the building being acquired by local owners.
At least four respected local development groups were prepared to bid for the property if it went into receivership. Now that interest has, according to my sources, faded — perhaps with any hopes for a revival of First National in the foreseeable future.