Linda had no role in Macklowe real estate empire, says Harry

“I’ve had ups and downs, but I’ve been very lucky,” the developer said at divorce trial

TRD New York /
Oct.October 19, 2017 06:29 PM

Clockwise from top left: One Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza, “No. 7” by Mark Rothko, the GM Building, Harry and Linda Macklowe and “The Nose” by Alberto Giacometti (Credit: Boston Properties and Emily Assiran)

There are few firsts left for a couple married for 57 years. But Linda and Harry Macklowe discovered one on Thursday, as the developer took the stand in their $2 billion divorce.

Maybe it was the loud air conditioner, or Harry was low on energy. Either way, Judge Laura Drager asked, could he please speak up?

“I’ve never heard [his voice] so soft,” quipped Linda Macklowe.

“There are very few firsts left,” the developer responded, flashing a signature grin.

The smile was short-lived, however, as he denied his estranged wife wielded influence over his real estate empire.

“My wife was my wife, but she played no role in assembling the buildings,” he said, staring straight ahead and barely glancing at Linda, who threw up her hands and scoffed at the suggestion.

In a series of answers, the 80-year-old developer downplayed his soon-to-be-ex’s role in the business altogether. “Your wife testified that she helped you find architects, is that true?” asked his lead attorney, Peter Bronstein. “No, I heard that, I couldn’t connect that at all,” Harry replied.

What about entertaining clients? “I searched my mind for that one, and I didn’t have any recollection,” he said.

Helping with design ideas? “Husbands and wives talk, but as far as ideas, I don’t know what that means.”

Harry recounted his early days in the industry as a commercial leasing broker. “I ran parallel careers, running a brokerage company and at the same time looking for investments,” he said.

He testified that over the course of his career, it was necessary to personally guarantee several loans. Sometimes he discussed the loans with Linda, sometimes he didn’t. The money they lived off during their marriage, he said, came from his earnings.

Ultimately, Macklowe Properties invested in, built or redeveloped north of 80 properties, he said, including the GM Building — where Harry conceived of Apple’s glass retail cube — and 432 Park Avenue, which he’s called the apex of his career.

“I’ve had ups and downs, but I’ve been very lucky to have created something like the Apple cube, which changed retailing on Fifth Avenue and became an emblem for that company,” he testified. “I’ve been lucky to build a large building [at 432 Park Avenue] that changed the skyline.”

Harry’s team introduced into evidence a monograph published by Macklowe Properties, documenting its investments from 1967 to 2007. Paging through the book, Harry paused to point out hand-drawings he’d made. He testified that he played a lead role in designing buildings — inside and out — and monetizing his investments.

“It took me a while to get started, as a broker, to earn money,” he said. “We always had enough money that I earned to spend. We never wanted anything we couldn’t afford.”

As his real estate career took off — and their buying power increased — they became serious collectors of art. “My wife always had an interest in art, and I did out of curiosity,” he said. But as a young couple, they began to visit galleries on weekends and started purchasing.

Harry said he always wrote the checks. “Nothing can catch the attention of an art dealer like writing a check,” he quipped. “It has enormous benefits.”

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