The Real Deal New York

The Closing: Robert Lapidus on summering with Jay-Z and growing up a "wise-ass"

September 01, 2013
By Katherine Clarke

Robert Lapidus

Robert Lapidus (Photo by STUDIO SCRIVO)

Robert Lapidus is the president and chief investment officer of L&L Holdings, the company he co-founded with David Levinson in 2000. L&L owns numerous trophy properties, such as the 76-story Metropolitan Tower at 142 West 57th Street and 150 Fifth Avenue, a 200,000-square-foot office and retail building. L&L is also developing a 650,000-square-foot office tower at 425 Park Avenue. The company paid $140 million in July to buy a 90 percent stake in the property from Lehman Brothers Holdings. An attorney by training, Lapidus attended the University of Pennsylvania and Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

What is your full name?

Robert Tod Lapidus.

When were you born?

Feb. 12, 1961. I was born on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, and I’m named after Abraham Lincoln’s eldest son, Robert Todd Lincoln, but my father didn’t like the two Ds.

Where did you grow up?

On Long Island, in a town named Bellmore in Nassau County. It was a great suburban upbringing — we played outside until dark every day, and the door was never locked.

What did your parents do?

My dad was an optometrist, and my mom went back to school to become an optometric technician. They worked together for many years.

Did you ever think of going into the optometry business?

My dad worked six days a week and we sort of lived hand-to-mouth. That wasn’t the existence I wanted.

What were you like as a kid?

My mother thought I was perfect, but I was probably a bit of a wise-ass. Once in eighth grade, the teacher told my mother, ‘Your son is very smart, but he thinks he’s smarter than I am.’ My mother said, ‘That’s because he is.’

Where do you live now? I live in Tenafly, N.J. We’ve been there for about 13 years. But now that our children are grown up, we’ll probably move back into the city. We also have a place on Long Island, in Bridgehampton.

How old are your kids?

Alexandra, my daughter, is 21. She just graduated from Lehigh [University]. My son, Brian, who’s 19, will be a sophomore at the University of Michigan. Alexandra wants to get into the [real estate] business.

What’s your house in Bridgehampton like?

We live next to [Hamptons developer] Joe Farrell’s “Sandcastle” house. Joe built my house first, about five years ago, and then his. Mine is a small little house compared to his, but it has pretty much every amenity you can imagine. You never have to leave.

Farrell has rented his house to a number of celebrities. Do you have any good celebrity gossip?

Not really. Jay-Z and Beyoncé were next door last year for a month. They were very quiet. One night at three or four in the morning, one of their guests buzzed on my door by mistake because we share a driveway. I didn’t see Madonna at all when she stayed.

How long have you been married to your wife, Carol?

We just had our 30th wedding anniversary. We had a big party with about 200 people at our house in Bridgehampton. I met my wife when I was 19. The day I met her, I told my dad, ‘I met the girl I’m going to marry today.’ I just knew. We met through a mutual friend on the beach — I was a cabana boy at the beach club in Atlantic Beach [on Long Island]. So my wife married the help, basically [laughs].

What was it like being a cabana boy?

I got paid a salary of $87 a week, but I got $600 a week in tips because I hustled. Hustle pays off. It helped me pay for my wife’s engagement ring.

How did you end up getting into real estate?

I worked for a law firm in New Jersey called Wolff & Samson. I represented a lot of people in the real estate business, and I said, ‘I could do that.’ When I left my law firm, I went to work as a real estate lawyer for my landlord, a big public company called Bellemead Development Corporation. I learned the business while I was there, and when I had the opportunity to move over to the business side, I did.

How did you and David Levinson decide to start L&L together?

David was a top broker, and we had very similar philosophies. We both wanted to go out on our own, so we held hands and jumped off a cliff together.

How are you and David different?

He’s much more formal. I’m most comfortable in a Grateful Dead T-shirt and shorts, and he’s very dapper and dresses very elegantly.

What’s the most interesting deal you’ve ever worked on?

The building we’re working on now, 425 Park, has definitely had the highest highs and the lowest lows. It’s a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to build a new office tower on Park Avenue. The frustrating thing was that our partner was [the now-defunct] Lehman Brothers. That brought a lot of angst and uncertainty.

What car do you drive?

I drive a Maserati convertible. It’s black with tan leather. It’s my fun little fantasy car.

What are your hobbies?

I like sports. David and I both have an ownership interest in the Yankees. We acquired it about seven years ago. I don’t collect art, so I thought, ‘What the hell?’

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