Spike Lee may attract more attention, but prime seats at the city’s two main basketball arenas, Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center, are just as often occupied by New York’s chart-topping real estate execs.
This breed of networking tends to advance negotiations and smooth over deals with little of the stress of a boardroom. This way, real estate pros say, the only people sweating are the athletes.
“The first two rows [at Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center] hold every major real estate owner in the New York area — everyone from Vornado [Realty Trust] to Related [Companies], and in many cases, their business colleagues,” said real estate attorney Ed Mermelstein, who had season tickets to the Knicks, Nets, Jets, Yankees and Rangers this year.
The Knicks and Nets are especially popular with real estate players.
Regular attendees on the basketball circuit include Related’s CEO Jeff Blau, Vornado’s CEO Steven Roth, billionaire financier Leon Black, developers Jeff Sutton and Maddd Equities’ Jorge Madruga, according to Mermelstein.
Before the games and during halftime when the Knicks are playing, the execs congregate at Club 1879, a private restaurant and lounge in Madison Square Garden.
Yet even when they’re working a deal, real estate moguls still get caught up in the games. “When the teams are winning, they get crazy,” Mermelstein said. “But lately, New York has not been a winning place on any front.”
In the front row at a Knicks game last month, Mermelstein recalled, he sat next to Cushman & Wakefield’s Bruce Mosler. During the game, they resolved a leasing issue that involved Cushman brokers and a client of Mermelstein’s.
The proximity of the respective arenas to the executives’ offices sweetens the appeal of doing business at game time.
Brooklyn-based commercial brokerage TerraCRG, for example, is located just a half block from the Barclays Center. It shares its season tickets to the Nets with local landlord Michael Pintchik and RedSky Capital co-founder Ben Bernstein.
President Ofer Cohen, whose firm sits in section 23, said TerraCRG occasionally rents a box at the arena for clients and friends. And they have plenty of industry company.
“It’s almost too difficult to pay attention to the game, because there are too many people to speak with,” added Cohen, who said he usually chats with BCB Properties’ Principal Bennat Berger and Aptsandlofts.com President David Maundrell during halftime at Nets games. Also spotted recently was Moshe Majeski, a top producer at Meridian Capital.