Leon Charney, a real estate investor who controlled over 1.5 million square feet of commercial space in Manhattan, died Monday. He was 77.
The son of a sewing supplies salesman, Charney amassed a net worth of $1 billion and a real estate portfolio that included three Times Square skyscrapers.
According to Bloomberg, Charney made his first purchase in 1980 with the acquisition of One Times Square, famous for hosting the New Year’s Eve ball drop.
In 2011, The Real Deal reported that Charney sold a development site at 120 West 41st Street to Stanford Hotels for $19.5 million. He sold 114 West 41st Street in 2015 to Blackstone Group for $166 million.
The New York Times first reported Charney’s death.
Charney, born in Bayonne, New Jersey on July 23, 1938, graduated from Yeshiva University in 1960 and Brooklyn Law School in 1964. He began his career as a sports and entertainment lawyer, representing personalities such as Jackie Mason and Sammy Davis, Jr.
Beyond his business ventures, Charney was well known for his public television program, “The Leon Charney Report” on WNYC, an interview show primarily focused on Middle East and Jewish affairs. He hosted the likes of Israeli prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres and New York City mayors from Ed Koch to Rudy Giuliani.
Middle East affairs were his passion, and Charney claimed to have played a behind-the-scenes role in the negotiations leading to the Camp David Accords in 1978. He also said he traveled to Tunisia in 1986 for a secret meeting with Yasser Arafat, in an effort to make peace between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Israel.
“I contributed my time and paid for all my own expenses simply because I felt it my duty as an American Jew,” Charney wrote in his 1984 book, “Special Counsel,” of his work facilitating back-door channels between the White House and Israeli military leadership.
The cause of Charney’s death was not given, though the New York Times reported that he had suffered seizures. Charney is survived by his wife, Tzili, his sister, Bryna, and his sons Mickey and Nati. [NYT] – Rey Mashayekhi