Andrea Olshan, 36, is the CEO of Manhattan-based Olshan Properties, a private real estate firm that her father, Morton Olshan, founded in 1967 as Mall Properties. She took the reins of the business in 2012 and is responsible for overseeing strategy and operating a 29 million-square-foot portfolio that spans 11 states and includes retail, hotel and office properties. The company’s New York assets include Parkchester, a 171-building complex in the Bronx with more than 12,000 apartments, and an 89-unit rental building at 173 West 78th Street. Olshan’s airy and minimal office is located on the 14th floor of 600 Madison Avenue in Midtown. A Harvard University and Columbia Business School graduate, she originally wanted to go into private equity. But her father persuaded her to join his real estate enterprise right out of grad school, to help him manage during a particularly busy period. Morton, now chairman of the company, is pushing 90.
Olshan spends most of her working hours at her standing desk, shooting off e-mails. “I really want a treadmill desk, but my husband told me I can’t be that eccentric,” she said with a laugh. “He says it would be creepy and weird if someone was trying to have a conversation with me while I was walking.” Olshan is a self-confessed fitness fanatic and does a different workout routine every day at 6 a.m., including interval training and ballet barre classes. Her only condition is that the workout has to be intense. “I’m not happy unless I’m struggling,” she said.
When Olshan renegotiated a 30-year franchise renewal for the Marco Island Hilton, a hotel the company owns in Florida, her father scribbled “Good job, Andrea,” on the top of the agreement, along with his initials. Olshan kept the document as a keepsake. “Compliments are hard to come by in my family, especially from my dad,” she said. “He’d never said that to me.”
This candle was gifted to Olshan by the residential management team at the company, after she helped out when its manager was out for a few months. Olshan refuses to burn it, explaining that it reflects the strong relationships she’s developed with the team. When she took the helm four years ago, she tried to avoid ruffling the feathers of existing staffers, many of whom had much more experience than she did. “You have to be incredibly respectful,” she said. “In meetings, I tried to only speak when I had something really important to say. I just listened carefully.”
Olshan’s mother, Carole, a former public-school teacher in East Harlem, met Olshan’s father, Morton, at a hotel in the Catskills. “My mom thought my dad was this very showy guy, telling her about a show he was producing on Broadway with Shirley MacLaine,” Olshan said. When they went on their first date, her dad showed up in a Cadillac convertible. “My grandma thought he was a hit man,” Olshan joked.
When Olshan was in kindergarten, she missed a family tour of the Savoy condo development at 200 East 61st Street — of which her father was one of the original developers — because her mom didn’t want her to skip school. Instead, her mom brought her home a hard hat, which sits in Olshan’s office to this day. “It’s been 30 years now, and I’m still not over missing it,” she said. The family still owns the retail portion of the building, and is looking to retenant the space following the departure of Texas de Brazil steak house in February.
Olshan’s father has held the second-largest stake in the New York Yankees since 2000. Her office is peppered with souvenirs — including signed balls and a photo of her and her now-husband, Michael Odell, at the Home Run Derby in 2008, when Josh Hamilton hit 28 home runs in one round. That was the first time her parents and Odell went to a Yankees game together. And the baseball bug clearly runs in the family: Olshan’s five-year-old daughter is a huge fan. “But it’s hard to tell if she’s just in it for the snacks,” Olshan said.
Olshan’s desk area is decorated with artwork by her three kids. In addition to her five-year-old, she has twin three-year-olds — a boy and a girl. “[It’s like] they’re in some crazy marriage,” she said of her twins. “The girl bosses everyone around.
Olshan and Odell were set up by a mutual friend from Horace Mann School, which all three attended. The two married at the French restaurant La Grenouille in Midtown, in 2010. After Odell moved to Olshan Properties as director of capital markets in 2011, his wife became his boss. That dynamic seems to work for the couple. “I don’t know if I could do it without him some days,” Olshan said. “If I tell my dad something, sometimes he’ll sort of grumble at me. He’ll go to Michael, and if Michael corroborates my point of view, it helps.”