A-Rod is coming for NYC and SoFla real estate

The retired all-star Yankee has been building his real estate portfolio nationally for years. But now, he’s coming for New York and South Florida.

Oct.October 01, 2019 11:00 AM

Alex Rodriguez (Photos by Guerin Blask)

Alex Rodriguez has seen both his professional and personal life covered exhaustively in newspapers across the country for decades now.

But since retiring as the Yankees’ star third baseman in 2016 — and, according to Forbes, pocketing over $480 million during his 22-year pro-baseball career — he’s become even busier.

He’s now juggling regular media appearances with color commenting baseball games (he’s a broadcaster for Fox Sports and part of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball team) and growing his real estate and investment empire, which all operates under his A-Rod Corp. umbrella.

He is also co-hosting a podcast, which launched last year, called The Corp, where he’s interviewed guests ranging from Martha Stewart and Kevin Bacon to real estate tycoons like Barry Sternlicht and Barbara Corcoran. Oh, he also has two daughters, ages 11 and 14, and is engaged to superstar singer, producer and actress Jennifer Lopez — aka J.Lo.

Since he founded the Miami-based A-Rod Corp. in 2003, the firm has purchased over 15,000 apartments across the U.S., deploying hundreds of millions of dollars on real estate and investing in companies like the hospitality startup Sonder, private jet startup Wheels Up, Snapchat and NRG eSports.

Sternlicht said Rodriguez has shown that he’s willing to put in the time and energy needed to succeed in business and comes to an “informed decision based on reasoned information and careful diligence.”

“Alex approaches business with the same dedication and passion he did baseball,” Sternlicht told The Real Deal via email. “Alex wants to win, really crush, in his work as he did in the majors.”

In July, A-Rod Corp. closed on a $4.5 million condo at Terra’s Grove at Grand Bay, twin luxury towers in Miami designed by starchitect Bjarke Ingels. (The company is building out its unit as an office and creating a ground-floor event space.)

Meanwhile, in May, the Miami-based Monument Capital Management, A-Rod Corp.’s multifamily arm, launched its fourth residential fund focused on workforce housing, with the majority of the roughly $50 million it raised coming from family offices and high-net-worth individuals, including fellow professional athletes (though he declined to name any).

It’s planning to buy about $200 million worth of real estate and has already closed on properties in Illinois and Tennessee, with a third under contract in North Carolina. And it’s looking to launch a fifth fund, for $100 million, in 2020.

Workforce housing has been “one of the best places to take your money” because it has “tremendous yield and protective downside,” he said, during one of two interviews with TRD last month. The first of those conversations was at partner Stonehenge NYC’s Manhattan office, the second at his sprawling 11,000-square-foot Florida home, which has an indoor basketball court and where his art collection is on display.

In Miami, Rodriguez’s company is also investing in at least two developments, the Fairchild Coconut Grove, a boutique condo project, and a 31-story rental tower at 40 Northwest Third Street, the latter with Grand Station Partners.

On the New York front, last December, Adam Modlin, Rodriguez’s personal broker in New York, introduced him to Stonehenge CEO Ofer Yardeni and, six months later, the trio announced a partnership to buy rental buildings and condos in the Big Apple. They’re now in contract on their first deal: a 100-plus-unit rental building on East 51st Street in Manhattan.

The partners will be tapping their personal networks to raise about $500 million and then leverage that to buy $1 billion worth of value-add multifamily real estate in the city in the next 18 months, said Yardeni.

“Collaborating with [Rodriguez] will be extremely beneficial to all of us,” Yardeni said, noting that Rodriguez has a “tremendous network and an excellent reputation.”

“The vast network that he has can help Stonehenge go and raise capital from family offices, high-net-worth individuals and more institutional players because when Alex calls, everybody listens,” Yardeni added.

Modlin also gushed about Rodriguez, saying the retired Yankee has been “thinking about investing in New York City multifamily for years” and that he “brings a secret sauce.”

“Alex is a partner that anyone would dream to have,” Modlin said.  

The 44-year-old Rodriguez — who just sold a home in Los Angeles (which he bought from Meryl Streep) for $4.4 million and unloaded a $17.5 million pad at 432 Park Avenue — spends about half the month in Miami. The other half is spent jet-setting on his Gulfstream IV to New York, L.A. or wherever else his broadcasting responsibilities take him.

Below is an edited and condensed version of his conversations with TRD — which were more focused on real estate stats than baseball stats.

You made your first real estate purchase in your early 20s, only a few years into playing for the Seattle Mariners. Tell us about that deal. It was a duplex out of Miami. The reason I liked the investment was because it was 10 minutes from Miami Beach and 10 minutes from Coral Gables and it was near the water. I needed around $48,000 [for the] down payment. I was very nervous about it. It was near the Miami arena. My thesis for the investment was very simple — it was around fear. I felt that if I bought some real estate that over time, if I signed a 15- to 20-year note, that by the time I was 30 or 40 I would have a handful of assets with very little debt. That was my answer to not going bankrupt, owning hard assets.

So, is that why you initially got into real estate? You said you didn’t want to go bankrupt. That’s all I’ve ever known. I always say, stick to what you’re passionate about and what you know. Coming from a single mother, all we knew was renting. We never bought anything. I envisioned one day as a young man that if I got an opportunity to trade places with a landlord that I would.

Alex Rodriguez (center) with Adam Modlin (left) and Ofer Yardeni

Do you only purchase multifamily? We’re really focused. Yes, I play sports. But I play baseball. Yes, I play real estate, but I play multifamily. … I’d say [our] average is Class B properties. There’s always an added-value component to them.

You spent the majority of your baseball career on the Yankees under Joe Torre and Joe Girardi. What did you learn from them about running and managing an organization? Joe Torre and Joe Girardi were both great managers. They both held me accountable. They expected you to show up early and leave late and they did not micromanage. Joe Girardi was more hands on, and Joe Torre was more like the Godfather. I remember one time I was struggling and Joe Torre brought me into his office. He thought I was overworking. I was nervous because it was 2004 and it was my first year as a Yankee and they have this incredible history with so many championships. I thought he was going to be mad and really get upset with me and he said “Look, I think you’re pressing too much. If you turn around, there’s a beautiful bottle of wine, Silver Oak and next to it a cigar.” He said, “I want you to go home, drink that bottle of wine.” I said, ‘Well, I’m not much of a drinker of wine.’ He said, “Drink it and have a cigar, and come back, tomorrow’s game is at 7. If you show up before 6 o’clock I will fine you. So just show up and play.” It made me so nervous to show up to the park so late. Usually, you’re there five or six hours before the game. [But] I show up around 6 o’clock. That night, I go out and hit a home run. The next night I go out and hit two home runs and off I went and finished that season very strong.

You went straight to the Mariners from high school, forgoing a scholarship to the University of Miami. Have you considered going back to school and getting any degrees? I’ve always thought about it. Joe Girardi always said that I was a teacher and a student at heart. And I think he’s right. I love to learn. I’m constantly trying to educate. I’ve been self-taught because I didn’t have any formal education. But I wouldn’t rule it out.

Does your team scout out opportunities and bring them to you? How involved are you in the whole process? I mean if you talk to Lane LaMure, Jeff Lee, Lisa Peier and Erin Knight [from my team], they’d probably tell you I’m involved too much. But I think that as we scale, we have to really count on our team. Ideas and opportunities come from all over the place.

How big is the company? It’s fluctuated. We were at one point 10,000 apartments. Today we might fluctuate by 3,000 to 6,000 depending on whether we’re buying or selling. We feel that it’s fairly late in the cycle right now. We take the philosophy that we sell 3,000 but we buy 1,000.

Are you worried about a recession? Are you preparing for that? We’re definitely in a defensive mode. We have our feet on the brakes a little bit. We made the decision about three years ago to start selling some of our portfolios and preparing for an opportunity. So, while we’re still buying, we’re cautious.

You’re investing in Chicago, New York and Miami. What other cities are you eyeing right now? We like to buy, fix [and] refinance. We’ve had a lot of success in secondary and tertiary markets, especially in the southeast. North Carolina has been great. We’ve had a lot of success in Texas. Chicago has been an incredible investment for us. … We’re very fortunate to have [Monument’s Chief Investment Officer] Stuart Zook leading the way. He’s always identifying new markets. Interesting markets where we haven’t been before are Tucson, Reno, Portland and Seattle. As we kind of move into the West Coast for the first time, it’s been a fun process. [Zook is] really good about picking what’s next. He’s got some great cities up his sleeve.

I read that you know Warren Buffet. What’s the best advice he’s given you? One of the lessons learned from Warren Buffet has been to do what you absolutely love to do with the people you love and respect. One of the interesting things I found with Warren is that he’s 89 and to this day, he’s still putting in six days of work. He’s in the office every day at 7:30. He reads five to eight hours a day.

Who else do you look up to in the real estate industry? I look up to Stuart Zook. I feel incredibly fortunate that I met him almost 11 years ago. I thought it was the biggest break of my [business] career to find a guy that’s managed over $2 billion in assets over the course of his career and who understands the game so well. Someone who’s extremely ethical and incredibly conservative. We do this all the time [head butting motion] because I want to buy, and he says “No, no, no.” That’s why he’s a much better investor than I am and why our returns have been incredible. He’s like Ted Williams. If it’s not right down the middle, center cut … he does have Buffet-esque discipline. I wish mine could be that good. But I’m a little more aggressive.

Does being a celebrity work against you in business? It’s a great question. As an athlete, there’s a gift and a curse. Sometimes, people celebrate and take the meeting. But for the most part, they’re thinking that you’re just an athlete. So I think part of what you have to do as an athlete is surround yourself with institutional-type investors with incredible background so a) they understand that your infrastructure and your team is one that can play at the big-league level and b) be one that can actually follow through and do the things they say they can.

There were reports that you are launching a business reality show in the same vein as “Shark Tank” on NBC. What can you tell us about it? We can’t talk much about the business show, but we’re very excited about and it has a little bit of a “Shark Tank” twist.

You told a crowd at a 2018 real estate convention that J.Lo loves real estate and has a “superpower to see what’s good and what’s not.” Do you guys talk about real estate and do you have plans to invest in any projects together? Jennifer loves residential real estate. I love commercial real estate. So, we make a good team there. She has impeccable taste, obviously. When you walk into her home, it’s always impeccable, smells good and is always in a great neighborhood.

You two recently sold your condo at 432 Park. Why did you sell? Was it an investment decision or a personal decision? It was a trade. We love the building. We went in, we bought it. We have a big family — we didn’t fit. We needed a little bit more space.

Are you looking for a new apartment in New York City? I wouldn’t say so. We’re happy.

You announced your engagement to J.Lo in March. When’s the wedding? Now that was a nice pivot. We went from New York real estate to the wedding. Why don’t we go back to New York real estate?

How did you first meet Adam Modlin and how did you make the jump from broker-client to business partners? I met Adam over 25 years ago over at Bergdorf Goodman when he was selling suits. I knew I was going to like Adam from the get-go because the suit cost $500 and he tried to sell it to me for $5,000. I said this guy’s a pretty good salesman. Adam Modlin is a savant when it comes to New York real estate.

What about Ofer Yardeni? I met Ofer through Adam. I met him in South Florida over dinner [at Prime 112 in Miami Beach]. We quickly hit it off. Then we set a meeting together that lasted three days on the West Coast. My partner, Lane LaMure, came out. Adam came out. Over the course of two or three days we put together what we thought was a really great idea to buy real estate in New York City. Ofer has an incredible background. He served in the Israeli military. … He has a great family, great morals, great ethics and great background. He brings that intensity from his [military] background. He’s up every day at 4 a.m., he’s working out by 5, in the office by 6:30 or 7. With my background in New York, it’s always been a dream of mine to own real estate [there]. It’s the best real estate in the world. To have an operator who essentially is like Michael Jordan in his space … I thought it would be a great partnership.

Principal of Monument Capital Management Stuart Zook and executive vice president Erin Knight

When do you plan to make your first NYC investments? We’re close to having a letter of intent for an asset right here in Manhattan. It’s a great opportunity for us. It’s rentals and it’s in Manhattan.

Where else do you see potential in New York? Around Yankees Stadium or around Citi Field in Willets Point and Flushing? I think that there’s upside around Yankee Stadium and around the Mets [at Citi Field]. I think both have a lot of upside. Anywhere in New York City, you have the potential. … But I think for this particular venture, we’re really focused on Manhattan.

A-Rod Corp. is moving to a condo in Coconut Grove. One of your execs, Erin Knight, said the firm is bullish on the area. Are you planning any other investments there? Well, Erin Knight is from Miami and she went to school right down the street at Ransom Everglades. So, we ended up buying this beautiful office space. The kids go to school nearby and right across the street we’re developing about 27 apartments in a place called the Fairchild Coconut Grove, which is right on the water. We’re very bullish when it comes to Coconut Grove. In five or seven or 10 years, you’re not going to be able to recognize Coconut Grove. It’s going to be awesome.

Where else in Miami? We’re developing about 31 stories, 300 units in downtown Miami. We love rentals and it’s just a place that’s on fire. I love Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, Miami Beach. I wish I was spending more time in Miami

I read that $20 million of the $50 million you raised for that fund came from high-net-worth individuals. Have you tapped any other athletes or celebrities? We’re very diversified. They come from the private equity world, hedge funds and entertainment. We have probably a dozen athletes that have come on board. One of the things I’m very proud of with our LPs [limited partners] is that over 95 percent of anybody who’s come in has never left us. They just keep doubling, tripling down.

What advice do you give to young athletes who want to invest in real estate or start their own business? Do you get that question? Yeah, I do. We have several dozen athletes that have invested with us, and every single one of them has come back for more. [I say] ‘I made mistakes, just like I made mistakes in baseball. I had some failures, that’s part of it. But I think never trying to be involved, that’s also a mistake.’ Even if you’re not interested, you have to be interested in protecting your future. I think you have a responsibility to yourself and a fiduciary duty to your family. … Real estate, with the right partner, is a great hedge to the W2 income you earn as an athlete. While your career earnings potential downgrades, your real estate appreciates. The No. 1 thing I would say is find a great partner. … No. 2, find yourself a great lawyer [who can] structure deals in a way that you have downside protection and you’re not putting yourself out there. No. 3, I would say, never personally guarantee. No PG for an athlete. So many people have gotten hurt like that. And then fourth, I would say, find [a deal where] everybody has skin in the game.

Have they been happy with their investments? The greatest thing for me is when I send them their returns. I’ll send them an email, and they’ll call me right away. They’re like, “What? Are you serious?” It makes me happy because a) it’s interesting to them and b) they’re connected and they have some passion behind it. And athletes are really smart people. … They just need a little financial coaching, financial literacy. But once they get it and they’re confident, they’re quick learners. They just have to have people that look out for them.

Is there someone who did that for you? I’ve always had a passion for it. And then I looked up to some of my buddies like Magic Johnson, Greg Norman, Arnold Palmer, Pat Riley. All of them became friends and mentors. I really think that for athletes, picking great mentors is an incredible way to go. Almost like picking a board of advisers as diverse as you could think of — from age to gender to skill set. One thing that’s always going to be true is that you’re going to come into some challenges and choices. To be able to have a handful of people that you’ve very carefully put together, it’s so powerful. For me it’s been incredibly powerful to have people in the tech space, to have strong women, to have people in finance, to have people in sports. I can’t just have five athletes on my board.

Do you see opportunities in esports and other types of entertainment from a real estate angle? We own a big stake in NRG eSports in San Francisco. We’re building a new arena for them in SF, which we’re very excited about. We’re bullish about the space. When you think about esports in general, there’s more kids today playing esports than physical sports. While it’s great for the business of esports, it’s scary for the next generation.

How much cash do you have in your pocket? I have zero cash in my pocket. My money is in real estate. Why, do you want some of my money?

How do you manage your time? You’re extremely busy. I would say that it’s a blend between running A-Rod Corp. [and] media obligations. First and foremost is obviously being with my family and the kids.

Is this the busiest you’ve ever been? For sure. I thought I was busy when I played baseball. Even with baseball there’s a predictable schedule every day. This changes every day.

Do you still have an intense workout schedule? I try everywhere I go to get a workout in. I try every day to break a sweat, especially when I travel. I try to incorporate hot yoga. It relaxes me, it’s like meditation.

If you didn’t have baseball or real estate, what would you be doing? I think private equity. I love building things. I like curating great teams. I love to see other young people win and make a lot of money. There’s nothing that makes me happier than to see people on my team the first time they make a million dollars. It’s life changing. Coming from team sports, you just love to win with teammates. I don’t think it’s a lot of fun to win by yourself. What fun is it to get rich alone? That sucks. You want to share the pie a bit. What happens is when everyone tastes that champagne or how sweet the cake is, then everyone gets to the office at 6:30 in the morning instead of 7:30. And now you’re looking at the next deal, and the next deal. The power of alignment is everything.

What do you want people to know about you that they don’t already? I feel like they know a lot. One, that I’m a terrible cook and an even worse dancer. Other things they probably don’t know is that I enjoy business just as much as I enjoy sports … and I go at business just like the way I approach sports. You’re only as good as your team — you’re an average of the five people you surround yourself with every day.