President of Edward J. Minskoff Equities, a New York-based real estate acquisition and development company. Minskoff founded the company, which leases and manages 5 million square feet of primarily commercial space, in 1987. The firm is currently developing a 1 million-square-foot mixed-use retail and residential complex that includes 101 Warren Street. Before founding his company, Minskoff was at Olympia & York, whose development projects included the 7.5 million-square-foot World Financial Center.
What is your full name?
Edward Jay Minskoff
What is your birth date?
I don’t discuss my birth date.
I don’t know. I just don’t. My mother never did. My mother was 39 her whole entire life until she died at 93. She never looked her age, so no one ever knew.
When’s your birthday then?
Dec. 31—New Year’s Eve.
What was it like having both on the same day?
It was shitty. I got screwed every year as a kid because they used to give me my birthday and Christmas present as one.
Was your family affluent, middle-class or lower-class?
They were pretty well-off.
How do you compare to them financially?
I don’t like to talk about wealth, but when I got out of business school my father had nothing. He lost all his money gambling. I came to New York with a two-year-old Chevy and two grand in the bank, and that’s all I ever got from my family.
Did your father have a job?
He was a developer. My mother and father were divorced when I was 12.
That’s unusual, no?
Back then it was. So I lived out of a suitcase until I got out of business school. I was going to prep school near Princeton. My mother was living in Detroit. My father was living in Southern California.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A developer. When I was a little kid in Washington I was curious, and I used to ask people about their jobs. I went to some job sites with my father when he was building in Washington and I said, ‘This is kind of cool to build buildings. It seems like a cool business to be in.’
Are you a gambler?
I was never inclined. I gamble for fun with my friends on the golf course. That’s the extent of my gambling, and I gamble big in business.
Are you a good golfer?
A seven handicap. The two sports I am active in today are squash and golf. I retired from skiing.
What are your hobbies?
Collecting art. Art’s a passion really for both of us [him and his wife of 14 years, Julie (Chai) Minskoff]. She oversees the entire collection.
How many pieces of art do you have?
Oh, I don’t know—somewhere between 450 and 500.
What does your collection consist of?
It’s 100 percent 20th-century Contemporary. It ranges from the old guard, which is [Pablo] Picasso—we have huge numbers of his works in our collection—paintings, drawings, sculpture. Jackson Pollock, Roy Lichtenstein, [Willem] de Kooning…right up to the new guard, which we have quite a few of Richard Prince, Damien Hirst, [Jean Michel] Basquiat and Jeff Koons.
Where do you keep the collection?
Home in the city, home in Southampton, my office…and every single building that I own has my art in it.
What’s your favorite piece?
I don’t know. It’s hard to say. If we don’t like something we get rid of it. So virtually every piece we own, we love.
Do you have children?
I have three—13, 21, 30.
Where do you live in the city?
71st Street and Park Avenue.
Did you build your house in Southampton?
What kind of home is it?
It’s a beautiful Robert A.M. Stern [designed] house.
Do you have any other homes?
We have a place—not a home—in Palm Beach, but we never use it.
Do you have any pets?
What do you have?
Um, what is—it’s a—cockapoo.
It’s probably cute.
Yeah, if you want a dog, it’s cute.
What was the first job you ever had?
I worked in a printing plant during high school one summer, and I worked as a lifeguard.
Did you think your company would be a success?
It wasn’t even a question in my mind.
Where did you get your confidence from – your family?
I got nothing from my family—zero. I got incentives from my family—incentives to do better than all of them.
Are you handy?
My wife is handy. I’m not handy. I once had to call her when she was in California to figure out how to get the volume to work on the TV set.
What’s your favorite movie?
I don’t like depressing movies. If I go to a movie, I want to be totally entertained.
If you don’t like depressing movies, how do you feel about the crime coverage in the city papers?
I was saying to my driver, why is it so important for them to tell me about some guy in Massapequa that got shot? Who cares about somebody that got murdered in Newark? If it, God forbid, is some important politician or world leader or something, that’s news. That, they should report. There are so many important things in the world today … why is it necessary, day in and day out, every friggin’ day of the week, to tell me about somebody else that got murdered?
Interview by Lauren Elkies