The Real Deal New York

At the desk of: Billy Macklowe

The developer on meeting Steve Jobs, his dodgeball bachelor party and quitting rock climbing.

October 01, 2016
By Katherine Clarke

Billy Macklowe (Photo by Catherine Gibbons)

Billy Macklowe (Photo by Catherine Gibbons)

Billy Macklowe, 48, the founder and CEO of William Macklowe Company TRData LogoTINY, has finally made his own mark on the condo business after leaving his father Harry’s company and launching his investment firm in 2010. He and his associates are now finishing construction on a new 52-unit condo tower — at the former site of Bowlmor Lanes at 21 East 12th Street — which is almost 40 percent sold after three months on the market. His firm’s office portfolio includes 156 William Street in the Financial District, where he recently inked a 55,000-square-foot lease deal with Weill Cornell Medical College, and 636 Avenue of the Americas. Macklowe has participated in more than $15 billion in real estate deals since he entered the business in the early 1990s, he said. His corner office, on the 28th floor of 126 East 56th Street, is filled with trinkets from his days working at Macklowe Properties with his father, as well as his more recent solo pursuits.

Piton

BILLY-MACKLOWE-pitonMacklowe is well-known for his love of extreme sports, and until recently he was an avid rock climber. Though he loves traveling to New Paltz, in upstate New York, to go climbing, he recently took a step back from using his piton at the request of his wife, Julie. “It’s not the most conducive sport to being married and having children,” he said. “There are consequences.” Once, when he and Julie were still dating, Macklowe said, he fell 20 feet while climbing in Colorado. Fortunately, he did not break anything.

GM Building Model

BILLY-MACKLOWE-gm-buildingA toy model of the General Motors Building — once owned and operated by his father, but ultimately sold — sits in the corner of Macklowe’s office. Macklowe recalled meeting the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs at his office in Cupertino to discuss building the now iconic Apple cube outside the building on Fifth Avenue. Jobs unveiled his vision for the project, pulling a handkerchief off of a small model of the cube. “He was in the dark blue jeans, the black turtleneck [with] the three-day shave,” Macklowe recalled. “He was a very quick study, extremely intense.”

BILLY-MACKLOWE-wall-of-zellThe Wall of Zell

This mechanized toy, one of several lined in a row, is also a music box. They were gifts from real estate magnate and Equity Residential Chairman Sam Zell, one of Macklowe’s friends. Zell designs the toys himself, and even pens a song for each one; the lyrics are his take on the economy at a given time. One of the toys, “Helicopter Ben,” depicts Ben Bernanke, who sings about turning on the spigot for stimulus. The toys are limited edition, and Macklowe estimates that Zell only makes 700 to 1,000 of each.

BILLY-MACKLOWE-boneDog Bone

The bone belongs to Macklowe’s miniature poodle, Licorice, who occasionally hangs out at his office. The 8.5-pound pooch also joins the family on trips around the country. “She’s an Upper East Side dog; she doesn’t eat too much,” Macklowe joked. He said he isn’t fazed by the fact that the breed is often seen being toted in the purses of celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton. “I don’t need to carry her,”
he explained. “She prances on her own.”

BILLY-MACKLOWE-bowlingBowling Ball and Pin

This bowling ball and pin were recovered from the rubble of the famed Bowlmor Lanes building by Macklowe’s construction crew following the demolition. Bowlmor had operated at the site since 1938. “Before Bowlmor turned the site over to us, they stripped the space of everything. They even took the hardwood lanes out.” The new condo building is designed by Annabelle Selldorf.

BILLY-MACKLOWE-BThe Big “B”

Macklowe nabbed the letter B from the sign of the Sterling National Bank building at 540 Madison Avenue, which he and his father purchased in 1996. It was the first big deal the two completed together. They expanded the base of the building, located on Madison Avenue and 55th Street, to the edge of the property line to create a two-story, glass-enclosed corner retail space. “I said to one of our construction guys, ‘If that B doesn’t walk away, I’d really like to have that,’ ” Macklowe said. It’s been hanging in his office ever since.

BILLY-MACKLOWE-mickey-earsMickey Mouse Cap

These Disney ears were a gag gift given to Macklowe, in 2000, from COO Jason Grebin. Grebin had just helped the Macklowes close a contentious deal with the head of another firm, who Macklowe described as incredibly unpleasant to deal with.  After the closing, Macklowe sent Grebin a gag gift signed by the unpleasant CEO. Grebin returned the gesture with this Mickey cap, which he brought back from a family trip.

BILLY-MACKLOWE-ny-postEngagement Announcement

The New York Post covered Macklowe’s engagement to Julie Lerner in 2004. They now have an eight-year-old daughter named Zoe, who, like her father, loves the water. “My wife will not let her ride on my back kiteboarding,” he said. Zoe is also obsessed with frogs, according to her father. “We were convinced she was destined to become a plague in a Passover pageant,” Macklowe joked.

BILLY-MACKLOWE-tshirtTarget T-Shirt

This T-shirt was made for Macklowe’s bachelor party, for which he and his friends went to the New York Sports Clubs gym on East 61st Street for a big game of dodgeball. Everyone’s T-shirt had a target on it, and the two teams were labeled “Us” and “Them.” “It was very tame — bruises, but no strippers,” Macklowe said.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Macklowe lost the GM Building to creditors. Macklowe Properties actually sold the building to satisfy creditors.

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