The Real Deal New York

Paydirt: When brokers sound human

The industry news you need to start your week, and what’s ahead
By Hiten Samtani | April 24, 2017 11:30AM

From left: Lew Rudin, Mary Ann Tighe and Ginni Rometty (Credit: Getty Images)

When Morgan Stanley was eyeing an exit from New York City in the 80s, Lew Rudin and Bob Tisch arranged for a sit-down with the bank. And they brought a few of their friends.

“Moynihan, Rangel, the Cardinal, David Rockefeller — it was intimidating,” Rudin told the New York Times. ”Moynihan got up and said, ‘I’m going to be the chairman of the Finance Committee.’ Rangel got up and said, ‘I’m the No. 2 guy on Ways and Means in the House.’ In any event, we did them a favor. And they recognize it now.”

That kind of swagger is a trademark of developers and makes this beat fun to cover. Brokers, however, often come across as disingenuous — when listening to interviews with top dealmakers, I’m somewhat primed for the gag moment, the instant when they cease to be human and start speaking in that PR-PHD voice that’s meant to convey humility, public service and gratitude for clients and those who came before them.

That’s why it was so refreshing to hear Mary Ann Tighe TRData LogoTINY on Monocle’s “The Big Interview”. Tighe, a perennial topper of TRD’s ranking of leasing brokers and one of the most politically-connected individuals in the city, owned her success with remarkable candor. She discussed making it as a woman in the business (don’t “personalize rejection”) and talked about going straight to the top, where the decision making-mojo lives, to secure support for an idea. And it’s clear she feels good about where she’s at and doesn’t try to downplay it.

“It’s a hard business,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to be starting again, but it’s a pretty interesting business to be practicing at the level that I’m able to do it.”

Adam Neumann and 88 University Place

WeWork, the new symbol of Corporate America: In the first deal of its kind in New York, IBM is taking an entire WeWork space at 88 University Place, creating a de-facto corporate office run by the co-working space company.

WeWork had hinted at these plans for a while now, as it needs to find new ways to boost growth and justify its ever-increasing valuation, now lurking somewhere between $17 billion and $18 billion. Some of its more power-to-the-people type of moves haven’t quite taken off, such as its bet on co-living, but the company sees opportunity in other initiatives, such as an investment vehicle to buy full properties and do sale-leasebacks.

A Ponzi in Park Slope: Brooklyn real estate wouldn’t be the same without an occasional juicy scam. This time, it’s Cheskel Strulowitz (depending on the day, also Chaskiel Strulovich) who’s being sued for allegedly running a Ponzi scheme in which he borrowed against properties owned by him and his investors to purchase 20 other properties his investors knew nothing about. It’s a Chaim Miller-esque saga that is likely to wind through the courts for a while.

More blue-chip action on the Far West Side: Hudson Yards has already sucked the life force of Big Finance out of Midtown. Now it looks to be Manhattan West’s turn to do the same with tech. JPMorgan is considering a 350,000-square-foot expansion at Brookfield’s 5 Manhattan West, for its fintech arm. And Amazon is considering a similarly sized spread.

Manhattan West development (Credit: Brookfield)

Midtown landlords have to be getting more than a little antsy. They’ve got their own headaches to deal with, such as the Midtown East rezoning, where the floor prices for landmarked air rights are hovering just below $400 a foot. And the “no man’s land” argument they’d use to dissuade tenants from the Far West Side doesn’t apply anymore.

(Paydirt is a weekly column that riffs on the biggest NYC real estate news of the moment, providing analysis and historical context on the deals and players that make this town tick. Read more from Paydirt here.)