The Real Deal New York

The Closing: Robert Ivanhoe

December 01, 2013
By Katherine Clarke

Robert Ivanhoe

Robert Ivanhoe (Photo by STUDIO SCRIVO)

Robert Ivanhoe is co-chairman of the New York office of Greenberg Traurig, where he leads the law firm’s real estate practice. Ivanhoe has handled a slew of high-profile deals during his career, including MetLife’s 2006 sale of Stuyvesant Town to Tishman Speyer for $5.4 billion. Earlier this year, he represented the Chetrit Group in its $1.1 billion acquisition of the Sony Building at 550 Madison Avenue. Ivanhoe is a graduate of John Hopkins University and the American University Washington College of Law.

What’s your full name?

Robert Jay Ivanhoe.

When were you born?

April 29, 1953.

Where did you grow up?

Great Neck, NY.

What were you like as a kid?

I was very into sports. I was quite shy. I didn’t start to excel in school until I was in junior high school. I don’t think I was that interested.

What did your parents do?

My mother was a housewife. My father and uncle were in the aluminum extrusion and window manufacturing business … [making] windows and doors for high-rise apartment buildings.

Did you ever want to join the family business?

I always had it in the back of my mind. I was really the only son to go into it. My father called me when he and his partners were considering selling, when I was in college, and he asked me my feelings about taking it over one day. … [But] I was a sophomore in college and I wasn’t ready to make that commitment.

How did his decision to sell impact you?

That changed my direction. I thought I better start thinking about what I wanted to do with my career and my life.

Where do you live now?

In Greenwich. I’ve lived there for 24 years. It’s rather bucolic. I like that as a contrast to my everyday life [in the city]. I commute by train. I often do document review on the way home. It’s the longest stretch of uninterrupted time I get most days.

Do you have any other homes?

We have a home in Park City, Utah, which we’ve had for about five years. I took up skiing at the ripe old age of 47, which a lot of people thought was crazy. But I was in very good shape for someone my age.

You don’t keep a place in the city?

My daughter lives in the city. I’ve crashed at her place once in two years. Sometimes I crash on the couch in my office when things get really bad. It’s not a very comfortable couch. A few months ago, we handled the [$250 million] sale of the Monterey for Related and I was here a few nights until 3 or 4 in the morning.

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

This month, it will be 30 years. We met on a blind date set up by my cousin. I don’t know that I’d ever been on any other blind dates.

How did you get started in real estate?

I worked two summers for [Glenwood Management’s now 98-year-old] Leonard Litwin as a renting agent. He was a big customer of my father’s, and has been an incredible mentor to me. He is one of the most incredible human beings I’ve known in my life.

What’s the best advice he ever gave you?

When I was graduating law school, I wanted to take a job in the federal government, in Washington, D.C., but he told me not to accept any offers until I went and met with him when I was home that Thanksgiving. He said to me, “I’ve known you your whole life and I see the potential that you have. While I admire and respect the fact that you want to go work for the government to do good in the world, it’s not well-suited to you.”

What did he advise you to do instead?

He said I should come work for his firm, or for the law firm he used. Then he set up an interview for me at the firm, Dreyer & Traub. I stayed there until the firm dissolved in 1995.

What was the first big case you worked on?

Donald Trump’s purchase of the site that became Trump Tower in 1978 or 1979.

You tried to invest with Bernie Madoff before he got busted. Why did he turn you down?

The investment I was going to make at that time would have been very small, and I was shut down very quickly. I was told he’s not going to take that kind of investment from a lawyer. Now, it seems obvious what that meant.

Will you finish your career at Greenberg Traurig?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. I’m in good physical shape and I think I could do this a lot longer if I wanted to, but there are other things I’d like to do. I see myself traveling a lot more and maybe taking on more of an advisory [role] to certain clients, but not necessarily in a purely legal capacity.

What are your hobbies?

I play golf. My index is 6.8. It used to be a lot better. I was as low as a 2 at one point.

I read that you often play golf with Stephen Green of SL Green. Is he a good partner?

I’ve played with him many times. He used to be a championship squash player, but took up golf at about 50. He was a beginner when we got paired at a REBNY outing. I didn’t play that well, but he was so in awe of me because I was a single-digit golfer. He became kind of enthralled … and took to the game with tremendous determination.

How would you like to be remembered when you die?

As a man who was thoughtful, a good listener, and of high integrity in all aspects of life, as well as a good husband, father and friend.

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