UPDATED Jan. 10, 2020: Faith Hope Consolo, the self-described “Queen of Retail” whose outsized personality and love for the limelight was matched only by her roster of big-ticket luxury clients, died Sunday. She was 73.
Douglas Elliman, where Consolo chaired the retail division, confirmed the news in a companywide email on Monday morning. The cause of death was reportedly a heart attack.
“She was a fearless leader and skillful negotiator and a dear, dear friend,” said Elliman CEO Dottie Herman. “Faith will be greatly missed.”
Born in downtown Cleveland, Consolo chaired the now-defunct Garrick-Aug Worldwide, and became one of the city’s best-known retail brokers, credited with finding Manhattan homes for the likes of Cartier, Versace, Zara and Louis Vuitton. She joined Elliman in 2005, and represented some of the city’s top landlords, including Harry Helmsley, Larry Silverstein, and Donald Trump.
“Many of her clients were long term ones. They believed in her to get the job done! And she did!” said Steven James, who heads the New York division for Elliman. “She was a high-voltage character but deep down there was a heart that just wanted to be loved.”
Consolo was often criticized for doing too much press – she was always available for a quote, on any topic, and made it a point to get to know every single reporter on the real estate beat. Her irreverent personality, infinite Rolodex and love for the social scene even inspired a parody Twitter account.
“I know some people think it’s overexposure, but I think the deals really drive the press,” she told The Real Deal in 2011. A widow who lost her mother at a young age, she confessed that she was far more sensitive than many think. “They think I’m tough, hard as nails, ruthless,” she said. “Ruthless, can you believe that?”
But her dedication to her craft was clear. Every Saturday and Sunday, Consolo would walk through Barneys New York on her way to a standing Pilates appointment. “I may shop, but really, I am taking an overview of what is going on,” she told the New York Times in 2015. “As I’m strolling, I’m canvassing… Besides being a fashionista, which I really am, I am always thinking about my career.”
As news of Consolo’s death spread, many industry figures who knew her — other brokers, property owners, retailers and reporters — swapped their favorite “Faith” stories. James, who said Consolo had mellowed in recent years, said she had a habit of giving out pink champagne each Christmas. “This morning, I’m thinking of those bottles going around,” he said.
Despite her volatile personality, he praised Consolo’s ability to thrive in a male-dominated industry. “It must have been an unbelievable challenge for her all those years to compete — and excel — in commercial real estate, which on a good day is a man’s world to begin with,” he said. “And she more than excelled. She beat the boys in retail commercial storefronts. My god, she certainly held her own.”
Joseph Aquino — Consolo’s former right-hand man — said he’d spent all morning crying, after learning that Consolo had passed the night before. “She was my best friend and family,” he said, dismissing a 2016 lawsuit in which the duo battled over his commissions and her expenses as a “stupid family fight” that both had gotten over.
Aquino recalled that 20 years ago, Consolo traveled to Greece to negotiate Cartier’s lease extension at 653 Fifth Avenue. (The building is owned by a company controlled by the Alexander S. Onassis Foundation, based in Athens.)
“Cartier called Faith up and was whispering on the phone saying, ‘Everyone thinks we own the building on Fifth Avenue but we’re coming off a 75-year lease,’” he recalled. To complicate matters, he said, Cartier sued the Onassis foundation 10 years prior and was no longer on speaking terms.
Before heading to Greece, Aquino said Consolo began working out in earnest with her trainer. “We took her off the cheese and picked up the water. Three weeks later, she was ripping phone books,” he said. “She was just mentally and physically ready — at the top of her game.”
According to longtime friend Esther Muller, Consolo had not been feeling well in recent days, but hadn’t gone to the doctor. She told Commercial Observer that she was “devastated” to lose her “very, very dear friend.”
In a statement, the Real Estate Board of New York president John Banks said, “The industry will miss her talent, passion, and her love for New York City.” On Twitter, BFC Partners principal Joseph Ferrara cited her “larger than life” personality. “RIP Faith, I’m sure your gonna ruffle some feathers in heaven!”
RIPCO’s Gene Spiegelman credited Consolo with making retail real estate a much more visible part of the industry. “She was a tough dealmaker,” he said. “But she always had a bit of optimism. You knew when Faith was in the room.”
Rich Bockmann and Hiten Samtani contributed reporting.
Editor’s note: In January 2020, the New York Times reported that Consolo had made up many details of her background and early career. This obituary has been corrected to reflect that she was born in downtown Cleveland, not Shaker Heights, and that only her mother, not her father, died when Consolo was young.
An earlier version of this story misstated Consolo’s age. She was 73.