The Real Deal New York

How Madison Avenue titan Larry Friedland got his start

The retail mogul's firm is worth $3B today

October 02, 2015 01:11PM

750 Madison Avenue (inset: Larry Friedland)

750 Madison Avenue (inset: Larry Friedland)

How did Larry Friedland amass a $3 billion real estate empire? It all began with a humble string of Harlem storefronts he bought — with multiple mortgages — for $400,000 in 1962. 

Behind the story:
Friedland Properties

The luxury retail mogul, in the first interview of his five decade-plus career, told the story of how he parlayed those shops into a portfolio of 20 prime Madison Avenue properties, luxury residential properties and plenty more retail besides.

His firm, Friedland Properties, is valued at $3 billion, and Friedland owns half of it, according to Bloomberg. He founded the company with his late brother Melvin in 1960, bought his first Madison Avenue property five years later, when the now-glitzy strip was still primarily dedicated to hardware stores, haberdasheries and pharmacies.

“You just need to have a good feeling about an area, you have to sort of look at it from a different angle and sort of look to the future,” Friedland told Bloomberg.

Now, the developer’s properties on Madison Avenue earn an average rent of $1,633 per square foot, according to CBRE.

One of his secrets is letting retail properties sit vacant for extended periods while he waits for just the right tenant, a practice made possible by the vastness of his holdings and his lack of debt on many of them, said Douglas Elliman’s Faith Hope Consolo. Those who have made the cut include Kate Spade, Ralph Lauren and Dolce & Gabbana.

Another secret: not answering broker’s calls when the property on offer doesn’t interest him.

The company also owns parking garages throughout the city, and a cluster of storefronts in the Bronx centered around Johnson Avenue.

Friedland has also developed two Upper West Side luxury residential buildings, the Larstrand at 227 West 77th Street and the Melar at 250 West 93rd Street.

Even Larry’s son William has gotten in on the act, partnering with hedge funder Bill Ackman back in 2013 to buy a 13,000-square-foot retail property on Broadway.

“It was his first deal going out on his own,” Ackman said. “He brought us what we thought was a very interesting deal.

Ackman described the investment as a “home run.” [Bloomberg]Ariel Stulberg