Julien Studley

September 03, 2008 10:26AM

Founder of the eponymous commercial real estate firm then called Julien J. Studley in 1954. Studley sold his shares to younger associates in 2002 and then founded Studley New Vista Associates, which manages properties he and his Studley associates own. He is also the new chairman of the board of trustees at the New School.

What is your full name?
Julien Joseph Studley [originally Stuckgold].

What is your birth date?
May 14, 1927.

Where do you live?
East 60th Street between Park and Lexington avenues. I’m the president of the co-op.

Do you have any other homes?
I have a house outside of New Paltz. And we have a barn on 50 acres six miles from the house in the town of New Paltz.

When did you come to the U.S.?
When I was 16.

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Brussels, Belgium. On the 10th of May [1940], the
Germans attacked Belgium. We went to the Belgium coast near the French border. We decided the Germans were moving quickly and crossed the French border with a Boy Scout patch I had posted on the car. They thought it was a pass. We stayed in a little town that night. There was a lot of machine gunning [and] we went farther south. [Eventually] we ended up in Nice [France]. We left [there] because we knew things were dangerous. [Finally] we came to Cuba with $50 rolled up in a pen. My mother’s brother lived in New York at the time, and he was able to get us Cuban visas. You would have been cooked by the time you got an American visa.

What was your first job?
I started working in diamonds right away when I came [to the U.S.]

When did you learn the trade?
I went to high school [which is the equivalent of up to eighth grade in the United States] in Cuba and the students went on strike [in 1943], saying, ‘we will not continue going to a school for a corrupt government.’ I was 15. That’s when I learned to cut diamonds because there was nothing to do.

What was the first place you lived in the United States?
On the floor in my uncle’s third bedroom, on 101st Street and West End Avenue, where my cousin still lives.

What languages do you speak?
I’m getting rusty, but I speak Spanish, Russian and some French. I understand Polish and German.

Were you in the army?
I was drafted in 1950 when I was 23. My assignment was to be in the 278th Regimental Combat Team [of the Tennessee National Guard]. They filled this southern reserve unit with people from the Northeast. I was hardly from the Northeast. I wasn’t a citizen. My English was abominable. I had never gone to school. I was supposed to go to the front of the line and zero in on enemy short-term artillery. You had to climb up a tree, put up speakers, and if they shot, you could triangulate where they were located. It’s a long story, but I went to the Pentagon and got transferred into psychological warfare.

What was the first real estate firm you worked at?
Brett, Wyckoff, Potter & Hamilton. I stayed there for two years. I averaged $2 a month. But I [also cut and polished] diamonds at night.

Were you ever a successful broker?
I was never a great broker because you have to be able to tell
people, ‘this is what’s good for you.’ My job, I think, is to make you
understand each of the alternatives, both the good and bad parts.

Where was the first Studley office?
In my fourth-floor walk-up apartment at 400 East 53rd Street.

Do you have any siblings?
I have a brother, George, who is three years younger than me. He
worked at Studley for 15 years [until 1972. He did not found the firm with Julien.] He’s totally lost the use of both of his legs. I see him at least three times a week.

Do you play poker?
I’m a third-class poker player. I’m exactly what the poker professionals like — someone who plays it as a hobby. I’ve been playing for probably 40 years.

What’s the most you put up for a game?
$10,000 for the World Series [of Poker]. I used to play poker for as long as 20 hours a day. It was like going to a sauna or something. I felt completely relaxed even though I had stupidly lost my money.

How did you do in the last World Series?
I came in 800 out of 6,700 people. One to 600 gets paid.

When did you get married?
I was 49 years old. It was like a revolution — ‘Julien’s getting married. What’s going to happen to the company? I never thought I would be married. I got married to the most junior person who worked for the company. She was 19 years old. It was the most stupid thing I’ve ever done and it didn’t last very long. We had a son [Joseph, 31].

Did you remarry?
After we got divorced, I decided, I’m not going to look for a wife;
I’m going to look for someone to take care of me. Ultimately I married Jane, and we have been married almost 20 years now. She is 20 years younger than I am. I have two grandchildren with her — I mean not real grandchildren — who are 3 and 6.

What’s the deal you are proudest of?
Bringing Bob Kerrey [former governor and U.S. senator from Nebraska] to the New School [as president]. It was really a brokerage transaction.

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