Day in the life of: Frederick Peters

Warburg Realty president talks about hand-picking the firm’s agents and his obsessive cleaning habit

Jul.July 01, 2013 07:00 AM

Frederick Peters

7 a.m. I wake up naturally at seven. Then I lie in bed and gather my thoughts for a while. Next, I am sad to admit, I get on the computer and start doing email. And I have my pajamas on, because at this point the kids are grown, and there is nobody in the apartment except for me and my wife, Alexandra.

8:30 a.m. I usually walk to the office across Central Park from my apartment at 86th Street, which I bought in 1977 — the first home I ever purchased. The walk is good for clearing my head. I don’t usually eat breakfast unless I’m meeting somebody, like my lawyer and friend Barry Mandel [of law firm Seyfarth Shaw]. We always eat at Viand coffee shops. When Warburg was based at 969 Madison we used to go to the one at 78th and Madison. Now we’re located at 654 Madison, our new headquarters, which opened in March. So we go to the Viand at 61st and Madison. I’m not a fancy breakfast guy — the whole idea of power breakfasts just seems sort of absurd. When I get to the office, I read the Wall Street Journal. I usually save the New York Times for the night. My father, C. Brooks Peters, was a reporter there. He was in Berlin in the 1930s, and covered Kristallnacht, the Nazi pogrom.

9:30 a.m. I’m a very hands-on manager. I meet with every one of my agents face-to-face at least once every two weeks. It’s important for me to make sure there is a palpable connection between me and everybody who is carrying the Warburg card. A lot of our mornings are dedicated to sales meetings, at our headquarters or our other two offices. This week I was at 30 East 76th Street. I also still do deals myself, about six this year. I just sold a two-bedroom on the Upper East Side, which was listed at $5.53 million. But I give most of my leads to other agents — I will only take on a deal when a client insists on it. REBNY [the Real Estate Board of New York] also takes up a lot of my time; I’m on three REBNY boards. Tomorrow morning there’s a roundtable at the Brotherhood Synagogue in Gramercy Park, where I will speak about ethics.

12:30 p.m. I eat lunch out about once a week with colleagues from other firms. We compete against each other in day-to-day business transactions, but at the more global level, our interests are highly aligned. [Corcoran Group CEO] Pam Liebman likes to go to Fred’s at Barney’s, because it’s in her building and close to mine. Next Tuesday, I will meet with [Halstead Property President] Diane Ramirez at the Lotos Club on the Upper East Side.

2 p.m. We’re hoping to expand our Tribeca office. It now has about 30 desks, but we think we can squeeze in about six more. Today I went down there to meet with our architect, Chandler Pierce, who also designed this office.

3 p.m. We’re hiring now. I do all the final interviews myself; these people will work for me, and Warburg is my family name. [Peters’ middle name is Warburg; his great-grandfather was banker Felix Warburg, whose mansion on Fifth Avenue is now the Jewish Museum.] We hire agents from other agencies, but I prefer to have people here inculcated from day one.

4 p.m. I have about eight cups of Earl Grey tea throughout the day. It has caffeine, but I can’t drink coffee because it makes me crazy. I try to call or email my kids two or three times a week. My daughter, Clelia, 35, is in New York working for a start-up that handles executive placement. My son, Jack, 32, is an assistant district attorney in Colorado.

5 p.m. I’m obsessive about having a clean desk; I think better in an orderly environment. Mess distracts me. I usually clean it off at the end of the day, which can take an hour and a half.

6:30 p.m. I don’t do too many charity events; my wife and I would rather send a check than send ourselves. But I do go to hear a lot of music, mostly contemporary classical. My favorite venue in the city is the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Last fall, I saw Philip Glass’s “Einstein on the Beach,” which was amazing. I’ve played the piano since I was 10 and I have two pianos, one in my apartment and one at my country house in Connecticut.

11 p.m. Often, I get home late. And then I get onto the computer and listen to music. Weekends are for classical, but when I check email at night on weekdays, I listen to rock. I’m old, so I like Fleetwood Mac and Patti Smith. I usually go to bed at midnight.

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