The Real Deal New York

The Closing: Howard Michaels


March 31, 2008

Founder, chairman and CEO of international real estate investment banking firm the Carlton Group. Founded in 1991, Carlton specializes in equity and debt placement, investment sales and commercial and residential loan sales. In 2007 alone, the company closed more than $7 billion in transactions. Some of its more notable deals include the 2007 financing of the $350 million Trump Soho; the $825 million equity and condo conversion financing of Manhattan House in 2005; and the $1.7 billion recapitalization of the GM Building in 2004. As of early March, the company was representing Kushner Companies in the $2 billion recapitalization of 666 Fifth Avenue.

What is your full name?

Howard L. Michaels.

What does L stand for?

Lucky.

No, really.

Lee.

What is your birth date?

November 3, 1955.

Where do you live?

I split my residences between Manhattan and Old Westbury. I have my new wife [Jennifer Bayer Michaels] and kids in the city. And my old kids in Old Westbury. We live in a rental building at 79th and Park. My wife [of five years] and I just bought at the Stanhope and the Lucida. We needed something for our growing family so we’re moving into the Stanhope [in early March], but it really isn’t big enough, so when the Lucida’s ready in a year and a half, we’re going to move into that.

How old are your kids?

From 2 and a half to 19. There are three boys and one girl, and there is a fifth coming [in April]. It’s another girl. We like to be very productive at Carlton.

Do you have a weekend home?

I have a house in Bridgehampton.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Deer Park, which is in Suffolk County, Long Island, but I was born in [Flatbush] Brooklyn.

What was your first job?

Sweeping the floor at a place called Holzman Carpet [in Flushing, Queens, before it closed]. I was 9. My dad worked for the guy that owned it. I grew up a fat Jewish kid in an all-Italian neighborhood. I wasn’t that athletic, although I loved sports. What I liked about work was that I was good at it. Then [my father and I] worked for this other place Raphan Carpet, all over Queens and Long Island. I was 11 or 12 and worked there for 10 years. I started as a stock boy working my way up to sales. I liked making the sale and convincing people to buy the carpets.

Did you always like money?

Yeah, I did. My family was more blue-collar. When I worked at Raphan Carpet, it was a family business, and they did very well and had nice cars. I felt like this was for me.

How do you think you compare to your father?

My father’s a nice guy. He never reached his potential, and I think he was always frustrated by that. I think that’s one of the things that keeps driving me to try and reach my full potential.

Do you like to watch sports on TV?

I love to play sports. I don’t like to watch them. I realized a long time ago that it was great to watch them, but my life was never going to change — this may be a cynical thing to say — watching them.

Does your wife work?

For eight years, she was [Sen.] Chuck Schumer’s chief fundraiser and then a senior fundraiser/advisor for two years at the DSCC — the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Now she has her own company operating on a consulting/contract basis. She’s hosted a bunch of different fundraisers for Hillary [Clinton] and some of the other candidates. But I’m a Republican.

How does that work out?

[Laughs] I’m like a quasi-Republican. Not always great.

Walk me through your day.

A typical day is getting up at 6:30 [a.m.], reading publications, organizing voicemails and e-mails from 7 to 9. From 9 to 10, I’m on the bike in my apartment and on the phone having conference calls with my office and clients. People who know me also know I’m breathing heavy because I’m working out. I’m usually in the office by 11. Then I’m home every night. I’d be the easiest guy to assassinate because I’m very routine [-oriented]. Other than when I travel, I have the same day every day.

You must not eat healthily.

People say, ‘For a guy who works out so much, how come you’re overweight?’

How do you relax?

I get massages. I work out. I travel a lot. I just came back from Israel with my three boys [David, 19; Josh, 17; and Sam, 12]. We had a great time. I’m going to take a Jacuzzi right now with them. They just came home from tennis.

What do you typically do on the weekends?

Nothing too exciting. I get up early, and my wife tends to sleep late. I make the kids breakfast and take them to whatever activities they have. My wife and I typically go to the [David Barton] gym together on 85th and Madison. Then we usually do an afternoon activity and come back and take a nap. And then we typically go out with friends Saturday night. I watch “Meet the Press” Sunday morning with my wife, and then I have an 11 o’clock conference call. After that, I am kind of on the BlackBerry, and we do family stuff for the rest of the day.

Is it hard for you to put work aside?

Why should I put it aside? When you own your own company it’s not like work. It’s a way of life.

Does your wife view it as work?

Sometimes. Sometimes it’s too much and she’ll tell me to chill out, and I do.

Interview by Lauren Elkies

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