Is there a correlation between one’s ability to close monster deals and their ability to laugh at their own expense? Stephen Siegel might be the guy to ask. On Wednesday night, the leasing titan was the subject of some good-natured, zany and occasionally ribald humor from a half-dozen of his “best friends” in commercial real estate, in a benefit event organized by The Real Deal to support the Gift of Life foundation.
Top developers, dealmakers, attorneys and their entourages gathered at Guastavino’s to honor Siegel’s life and career, a whirlwind that has seen the CBRE broker close some of the biggest leasing deals in the city over more than half a century and also become a major real estate investor through his firm Fairstead Capital. The white-jacketed roasters/toasters – a who’s who of commercial real estate including Jonathan Mechanic, Andrew Farkas, Bob Knakal, Joanne Podell, Alan Grossman and Arthur Mirante – took note of those accomplishments, but mostly delighted in taking the piss.
TRD publisher Amir Korangy kicked off the ceremonies from the dais, warning the crowd to skip the pity laughs.
“Stephen will receive a generous commission on every joke that lands,” he said.
Cushman & Wakefield’s Bruce Mosler, the emcee for the evening, talked about Siegel’s untold millions, noting “the Rolls-Royces, the Maseratis, and on a more pedestrian level the BMWs, the Mercedeses.” He made sure to point out the many illustrious titles that Siegel has held over his career.
“He’s been chairman,” Mosler said. “Chairman and president. Chairman, president and CEO. And Chairman, president, CEO and CFO on occasion.” Mosler told the audience that, if anything, Siegel was downplaying his resume and accomplishments.
“He claims he’s been honored 30 times,” Mosler said. “Just 30 times? I’ve bought 300 tables personally!”
Among the 400 real estate players in attendance: MHP Real Estate Services’ Norman and David Sturner; HFZ Capital Group’s Ziel Feldman; Savills Studley’s Woody Heller; SJP Properties’ Steven Pozycki; Cushman & Wakefield’s Paul Massey; Colliers International’s Brad Mendelson, Yoron Cohen and Richard Baxter; and Compass’ Toni Haber.
Fried Frank’s Jonathan Mechanic said he’s known and worked with Siegel for the last 30 years.
“So I’m one of his younger friends,” he said.
Avison Young’s Arthur Mirante, perhaps the only industry figure whose mustache game is as strong as Mechanic’s, talked about how Siegel set him up as a young broker with his bookie, Sam, with the consequence being that they were both frequently broke.
Cushman’s Bob Knakal adopted a Borscht Belt schtick, doing his best attempt at evoking Henny Youngman’s “Take my wife, please” style and at times borrowing zingers from Rodney Dangerfield and others.
He was followed by Island Capital Group’s Andrew Farkas, who made way for perhaps the hit of the night, Wendy Siegel.
Wendy, a 2013 recipient of a bone marrow transplant through Gift of Life, didn’t pull any punches when it came to the dais members.
“Instead of ‘Where’s Waldo,’ we play ‘Where’s Jon Mechanic,’” Wendy quipped, referring to the top attorney’s ubiquity in industry-event photographs. She joked about how Mosler had tried to model his entire life and career on Siegel’s, going as far as to marry a Wendy.
On her husband, she said: “Trump says he’s the greatest broker. You know he never exaggerates.”
Siegel then closed out the night. “Don’t forget I have the last word,” he told Wendy. “I’m going home with you.” He left the dais triumphant, as did Walter.