Leslie Wohlman Himmel is a managing partner at the real estate investment company Himmel + Meringoff Properties, which she founded with Stephen Meringoff in 1985. The firm operates a portfolio of some 2 million square feet of Manhattan commercial real estate, valued at more than $750 million. Its properties include the 480,000-square-foot office building at 521 West 57th Street, and 401 Park Avenue South, a 12-story office and retail building. Earlier this year, Himmel + Meringoff sold 158 West 27th Street for $57.5 million, more than double the $25 million it paid for it in 2010. Before launching the firm, Himmel worked at the national real estate syndicator Integrated Resources.
What’s your full name?
Leslie Ellen Wohlman Himmel. Wohlman is my maiden name and Himmel was my married name with my first husband. I got remarried five years ago to Alan Shuch, but I didn’t take his name. I just use it for making restaurant reservations.
What’s your date of birth?
March 6, 1954.
Where did you grow up?
In White Plains. I went to a rough public high school, right around that Martin Luther King period. Every day, people were beaten up. I was in the minority as a Jewish Caucasian. I didn’t get hit because I was a cheerleader and everyone liked me. My older brother went to private school at Horace Mann. They gave me the choice to go there too, but I liked my friends and I wanted to be on the [White Plains] tennis team. I promised that if they let me stay in public school, I’d still end up at a top college. I went to the University of Pennsylvania and then Harvard Business School.
What did your father do?
My dad had his own accounting firm and taught me from an early age the importance of numbers and entrepreneurship. There was a lot of math talk in my house.
When did you get married?
I married Jeffrey Himmel in 1984. We were married for about 22 years and divorced in 2006. I married Alan in 2008. He’s a retired partner from Goldman Sachs.
How did you and Alan meet?
We were fixed up. We went out to dinner to a restaurant called Fiamma. All of a sudden it was midnight and the tables around us were empty. We’d been there for four and a half hours.
Did you go on a lot of bad dates before you met Alan?
It was a period in my life where I went way too much on a carousel. When I got divorced, I said, ‘I’m not going to feel sorry for myself. I’m going to go out and have fun.’ And I did. It was quantity, not quality. I went on a lot of dates, but Alan was by far the standout of the group.
Where do you live?
I live at 15 Central Park West. I used to see A-Rod in the gym but I couldn’t quite compete with his athletic prowess.
Do you have any other homes?
My husband has a home in Nantucket, so we go there on weekends.
How many kids do you have?
Two. Andrea is 27 and David is 25.
What was your first job?
When I was about eight, my brother and I used to go door-to-door selling seeds to grow vegetables and flowers. I was the salesperson, because I had a great smile.
How did you get into real estate?
I didn’t know what I wanted. Before I went to Harvard, I worked for Mobil for six months. In my summers off from Harvard, I worked for an investment bank. After business school, I worked for Clairol. At that time, I was dating someone whose family owned a lot of real estate. He used to say, “It’s a waste of your talent to be selling hair color.” I wasn’t selling hair color — I was doing strategic marketing for Clairol — but that comment made me think about getting into real estate. I interviewed at Integrated Resources and they gave me the lowest-rung position there, running the appraisals and engineering studies for their acquisitions. I was eventually promoted to acquisitions.
Why did you leave Integrated Resources?
I knew I wanted to have my own business one day. I met Steven Meringoff in a continuing-education real estate class at NYU. [The late mogul] Harry Helmsley was speaking in the class. He asked if anyone had any questions and I raised my hand. I said, “What’s your greatest accomplishment?” He paused, and then said, “What are you doing tonight?” That night, Steve introduced himself to me. He thought, “If Harry Helmsley is hitting on her, she must be someone worth knowing.” I ran into Steve again years later, when I went to his office on behalf of Integrated, trying to buy the tax position of his real estate. He looked at me and said, “Why are you there?” At that moment, we started talking about being partners.
What is Harry Helmsley like, and did you ever meet his wife Leona, the notorious “Queen of Mean”?
My first year working with Steve, I went away to Barbados. We were staying at Sandy Lane [a luxury resort], and went into the dining room for dinner and who was there? Harry and Leona. We ended up befriending them and having lunch and dinner with them the entire week. Harry told me stories of how he built his empire. I was never in Leona’s line of fire, so I never saw her fury.
What are your hobbies?
I’m addicted to exercise. Tennis, yoga, Rollerblading, skiing. I have a racing bike. I’m passionate about my friends. [CBRE’s] Mary Ann Tighe has been a close friend since 1988, when we bought 411 Lafayette Street and hired her as the exclusive leasing agent.
Do you make as much money as you’d like to make?
Every time I’ve reached the next bar, it seems like that bar is too low.