Elliman cancels annual holiday bash

New York /
Nov.November 19, 2008 02:52 PM

The party’s over at residential giant Prudential Douglas Elliman.

The company has canceled its annual holiday soiree. Instead, the firm will donate funds to a charity while individual offices will still hold parties, said company President and CEO Dottie Herman.

Elliman joins the city’s two top commercial brokerages, CB Richard Ellis and Cushman & Wakefield, in pulling the plug on company-wide seasonal events.

“This is the first time in the 23 years I’ve worked for the company that there hasn’t been a holiday party,” said Helene Luchnick, who helms Elliman’s downtown office.

Last year, Elliman enjoyed a “banner year — the best ever,” Herman said. The company celebrated accordingly, at the swanky Pierre hotel, on Fifth Avenue at 61st Street. In 2006, the firm’s gala at Cipriani at 110 East 42nd Street featured sophisticated lighting, an ice sculpture and top-shelf food and booze.

“We’re in fine financial shape, but people are losing their jobs, even some here, so it’s not appropriate to have a huge party,” Herman said. “It’s a different world today.” The company will still hold its annual awards ceremonies in January, she said. Details about the job losses were not immediately available.

At Elliman, “in years past, we used to spend $100,000 on our holiday parties,” said Paul Purcell, former president of Elliman, and co-founder of New York City real estate company Charles Rutenberg Realty.

The Corcoran Group celebrated in style at its 2006 holiday party, when 900 people entered a simulated Roman palace, complete with scantily clad actors in period costume. The company declined to comment on its holiday plans for this year.

The specter of the Grinch is overshadowing the season at other real estate and real estate-related companies.

One commercial broker, who asked to remain anonymous, said it was absolutely impossible to put a positive spin on the state of the market, though he’ll host 40 clients and employees at a Manhattan restaurant.

Nightclub broker Alex Picken of Picken Real Estate recalled last year’s party hosted by Winick Realty at Wild Salmon restaurant, complete with a DJ, food, drink and women dressed up as Santa’s helpers. This year, “there’s belt-tightening across the board,” he said.

Public relations firm Quinn & Co., which specializes in real estate, will spend the same sum as last year — $175 a plate — said the company’s president, Florence Quinn. This year, for the first time, the firm will gather at a client’s establishment to help spread the wealth rather than spend over-the-top to hold a holiday function elsewhere.

Architect Steven Kratchman has redistributed some of his holiday party fund to support an extra week of paid vacation for his employees, yet he also plans to host dinner and drinks at a neighborhood restaurant, a format similar to previous years.

Manhattan-based law firm Herrick, Feinstein, which has a large commercial real estate practice, is also spreading cheer as a necessary investment.

“For obvious reasons we’re keeping an eye on expenses, but we have no plans to diminish our social events,” said Carl Schwartz, head of the firm’s commercial real estate division. “They’re important for internal morale, good for our clients and, ultimately, good for our business.”


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