The Real Deal New York

Vornado’s Steve Roth on how he made it

"Stick to what you know. I think I learned that the easy way."

September 17, 2015 08:30AM

Vornado chair and CEO Steven Roth

Vornado chair and CEO Steven Roth

From his first job, building industrial buildings in New Jersey, to heading a company with a market cap of $17 billion, Vornado Realty Trust’s Steven Roth has had a pretty good ride.

“There are two plaques I have in my office — one says, ‘Trouble is opportunity.’ The second says, ‘Almost never sell.’ The second one is to be listened to in terms of prime real estate. I don’t know what the qualifier ‘almost’ means,” Roth said.

The real estate investment trust boss recounted his early career and shared the lessons of his success in an interview with Crain’s.

Roth described some of his early insights: that building malls is more profitable than putting industrial buildings, that real estate stocks were a better value than real estate itself, and that the land beneath venerable retail outlets was worth more than the stores themselves.

And, the Vornado head touched on his failures and the lessons he took. On his short, ill-fated foray into retail, Roth said, “Stick to what you know. I think I learned that the easy way.”

Speaking of what Roth knows, reports recently surfaced that the developer, along with Jared Kushner of Kushner Companies, is planning to restack 666 Fifth Avenue in Midtown.

Roth closed by summing up his philosophy.

“Buy in the right places, buy the highest quality that you possibly can, because the highest quality performs the best in up times and in down times. And believe in America. Just keep buying. Peace.” he said.

Then, presumably, he dropped the mic. [Crain’s] – Ariel Stulberg