The Real Deal New York

Joseph Cayre

By Lauren Elkies

Founder and principal of Midtown Equities, a New York-based real estate investment firm that owns 101 properties internationally, and co-founder and chairman of residential marketing and sales company Core Group Marketing. Cayre was part of a group of investors that bought the World Trade Center in 2001, and part of a team of investors that bought the Sears Tower in 2004, though he wasn’t directly involved in the Sears Tower deal, he said, as has been reported. Midtown Equities is working on a $2.3 billion, 55-acre mega-project in Miami with 3,000 condominiums, more than 600,000 square feet of retail and 200,000 square feet of office space. Personally, Cayre sold his house in Midwood, Brooklyn, for $10 million in October 2007, one of the most expensive sales in the borough.

What is your full name?
Joseph Jack Cayre.

What is your date of birth?
August 1, 1941.

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Brooklyn on 20th Avenue and 65th Street [on the border of Bensonhurst and Borough Park]. When I was 1, we moved to Kansas City, Mo. I was there from 1 to 8 years old. From 8 to 20 years old, I was in Miami Beach, Fla.

When you think of your childhood, what memory stands out the most? Moving from Kansas City to Miami. It was a traumatic experience. I left all my friends in Missouri.

What was your first job ever?
Working in my father’s retail store in Miami Beach. I was 13. I got
out of school at 3. I got to the store at 4. It was open until 10. We sold Miami Beach souvenirs.

Did you have to work or was it something you wanted to do?
We had to work to eat — me, my brother and my dad — and we barely
made a living. Things were so tough in the store that I worked as a bellhop at the National Hotel in South Beach.

To what do you attribute your success?
Learning in a retail store. You would sell a lot of stuff, but you were really selling yourself.

Did you graduate from college?
I enrolled in the University of Miami but I never went there because I was a playboy. I went out with girls all day long.

When and why did you get into real estate?
Eleven years ago. When I grew up in Miami Beach, the nicest home sold when I was a senior in high school for $100,000. I saw that house sell for $38 million about 11 years ago.

Where do you live?
Central Park South.

Do you have any other homes?
In Brooklyn, the Jersey Shore and Aventura, Fla. We spend half the
week here, half the week in Brooklyn. We spend the summertime on the Jersey Shore and the wintertime in Aventura.

Why do you have a home in Brooklyn when you have an apartment in Manhattan?
My kids live there.

How long have you been married?
Thirty-seven years. She’s the love of my life. I love her more every day.

What’s the trick to staying married that long?
Resolve everything before you go to sleep and don’t [be afraid to say] you’re sorry.

How many kids do you have?
Four sons and one daughter.

Do they work for you?
My sons are all equal partners with me. I gave them all an equal share of every company. My daughter just graduated Barnard College and is taking her masters at Columbia University.

What are the challenges of working with your family?
[In the beginning it was] to keep all of them happy, to keep all of them from fighting with each other. It took a couple of years, but we got it down. We have five different skill sets.

What is yours?
Experience. I’ve been there before.

What do you think is the fastest way to make it rich?
Don’t do it the fastest way. Try to do it the slow and steady way.

Do you cook?
I do cook.

What did you make this week?
Vegetarian curry noodle soup [minus the noodles]. I copied [restaurant] Zen Palate’s recipe.

Are you and your wife vegetarians?
No. I’m seeing a nutritionist to lose weight.

How many pounds do you want to lose?

You were a bidder for the General Motors Building at 767 Fifth Avenue. Are you happy that you didn’t win it?
[Mort Zuckerman’s Boston Properties acquired the building for a record $2.8 billion in June.]
I’m delighted. I was as high as the selling price and then I backed out. I just didn’t like the returns. I like to make money on all my deals. I think that [in the General Motors deal] initially you’d lose your arm.

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