James Nederlander, patriarch of a real estate dynasty that owns several famous venues in the Theater District, died Monday at his Southampton home at the age of 94.
The Nederlanders are among the Theater District’s biggest landlords — second only to the Shubert Organization — and own or operate nine theaters, including the Minskoff, the Neil Simon, the Gershwin, the Palace and the Nederlander Theatre.
Developers have clamored to acquire the sought-after air rights above Nederlander’s theaters for decades. A development team led by Sharif El-Gamal’s Soho Properties paid $8.9 million to purchase nearly 20,000 square feet of unused air rights from the Neil Simon Theatre last year for their Dream Hotel project at 560 Seventh Avenue.
“Jimmy was a true giant,” said real estate attorney Jay Neveloff, who represented Nederlander on the Palace deal. “He was a man of great wisdom, judgment and integrity. He will be missed.”
Nederlander reportedly began working at the company, which was started by his father David Nederlander, in 1939. He initially worked as a stagehand and an usher and even swept theater lobbies. He took over the company after his father died in 1965.
While the Nederlanders’ business has its roots in Detroit, it began actively acquiring in New York in the 1960s. In Los Angeles, the company formerly operated the famed 6,200-seat Greek Theater at Griffith Park, but that contract expired last year.
Nederlander also owns a site at 6201 Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles that is currently being developed into a 500-unit rental building in partnership with DLJ Real Estate Capital Partners.
In recent years, Nederlander’s son Jimmy Nederlander Jr. has overseen daily operations at the company.
“He was my best friend, and partner in every aspect of our business,” his son said in a statement to Variety. “We collaborated every day. The world has lost one of its great impresarios.”