The quiet players

Meet some New York City empire builders who shun the spotlight

Sep.September 01, 2009 12:08 PM

New York real estate might be known for its big personalities, but there are a host of owners and investors like Frank Ring who shun the spotlight.

Some publicity-shy players are revered in the industry for having orchestrated some of the city’s biggest deals: Lloyd Goldman, Jeffrey Feil and Joseph Cayre, for example, are spoken of in reverential tones by commercial brokers as high-powered, big-money wheelers and dealers.

Still others are the stuff of local legends. Families like the Moskowitzes and the Trenkmanns are known for being multi-generational kings of small neighborhoods. While such owners typically aren’t involved in huge deals — in fact, most are known for sitting on their buildings and rebuffing buyout offers — they are notable for having significant holdings in prime locations. Here’s a sampling of some of the quiet under-the-radar players:

High stakes, low profile

Lloyd Goldman, Jeffrey Feil and Joseph Cayre

While his name rarely appears in print, Lloyd Goldman is involved in some of the biggest deals in commercial real estate.

Goldman hails from a venerable real estate family built up by his uncle, Sol Goldman, and is the owner of BLDG Management.

He’s one of the main investors in Larry Silverstein’s efforts to rebuild the World Trade Center, and has many other massive investments. He was, for example, part of the team that bought Chicago’s Sears Tower in 2004.

Goldman has also amassed significant smaller holdings, such as multi-family buildings in the outer boroughs. His reputation in the industry is sterling.

“He’s known as a very sophisticated investor,” said Eric Anton, an executive managing director at Eastern Consolidated.

Jeffrey Feil and Joseph Cayre are frequently mentioned in the same breath as Goldman because they often team up on investments. All three were part of the Sears Tower buy, and belong to a group known in industry circles as “The New York Guys.”

Feil, the CEO of the Feil Organization, also owns valuable properties such as 200 West 57th Street and 488 Madison Avenue. And his firm was also one of the investors in the recent $590 million purchase of Worldwide Plaza, one of the biggest commercial deals this year.

Cayre, meanwhile, was also an investor in the World Trade Center, and was reportedly one of the bidders for the GM Building last year. The chairman of Midtown Equities, Cayre got his start in business by helming music and video companies, according to a profile on the Web site Deal Junky. He was also the co-founder of the residential marketing and sales company Core.

All three are known as savvy financiers, and there is industry buzz about their current activities in the New York market.

Dan Fasulo, a managing director at Real Capital Analytics, alluded to a couple of big-ticket properties the investors are said to be making plays for. The New York Post reported in July that Cayre was set to buy the HSBC headquarters at 425 Fifth Avenue for a price in the $310 million range. “The fact that some of them are active right now bodes well,” Fasulo said. “These entrepreneurial investors always lead us out of a down cycle.”

Self-made immigrants

Kamran Hakim and Michael Dezer

Kamran Hakim, who immigrated to the United States from Iran, is said to own more than $1 billion worth of New York City properties. His best-known building is a large rental on East 34th Street, the Anthem, which his company developed a few years ago.

However, according to sources, the press-shy investor derives his fortune mainly from owning a large portfolio of multi-family rentals on the Upper East and Upper West sides.

According to commercial broker Georgia Malone, many of Hakim’s investments have been in rent-stabilized buildings that he’s taken market rate via capital improvement plans. Malone used to work at a law firm that represented Hakim and has worked as a broker representing buyers of some of his buildings. She said Hakim is “completely self-made” and doesn’t court the limelight.

Meanwhile, like Hakim, Michael Dezer immigrated to the United States (from Israel), according to his Web site bio.

Dezer Properties, which he founded, built up a portfolio of commercial buildings in Chelsea during the 1970s, the site says. A news release put out last year noted that in New York Dezer owns and manages 1.3 million square feet of commercial space in Chelsea. It said the company also “services” 23 buildings in New York City.

Although he has given few published interviews, his son Gil, who is also part of the family business, has been cited in the press several times over the past few years in connection with recent investments the family made in South Florida, including joint venture residential projects with the Trump Organization and the Related Companies.

In 2005, the Miami New Times painted an unflattering portrait of the younger Dezer, noting: “To hear many of his fellow real estate figures in Miami tell it, Gil Dezer’s rapid muscling into South Florida’s luxury-condo market is a case of too much too soon.”

A June story in the South Florida Business Journal said that 124 of 271 condos in Tower 1 of the Trump Towers in Sunny Isles Beach, a three-tower project the Dezers co-developed, were unsold.

‘Handshake deals’

The Beekman Estate and Rodney Propp

According to the Beekman Estate’s Web site, the Manhattan-based company owns buildings in New Jersey and Westchester, as well as some valuable Manhattan buildings like 11 Hanover Square in the Financial District.

In 1990, the New York Times reported that the Beekman Estate dates back to 1645 and that some of the company’s holdings were established hundreds of years ago. Very little else of note has been written about the firm, however.

Faith Hope Consolo, the chairman of Prudential Douglas Elliman’s retail leasing and sales division, said the company is primarily run by the Palmers, a father-and-son team, and that they are so steeped in tradition that there are blueprints for their buildings hanging in their offices.

“People like Beekman are the real backbone of New York City real estate,” said Consolo. “You have people like them, the old families, and then everyone else — the newbies.”

Consolo said she has worked on “handshake deals” that are honored with both Beekman and another player with a long lineage in the city’s real estate world, Rodney Propp.

Propp, the chairman of Tahl-Propp Equities, invested heavily in the Harlem market during the late ’90s and early 2000s.

“They hold their properties and don’t sell, and they don’t talk to the press,” said Consolo. “But they have good relationships with their tenants, and they give back to the community.”

According to other sources, inherited wealth and aggressive real estate plays have made Propp “staggeringly wealthy.”

Downtown hold ’em

The Trenkmann and Moskowitz families

The Trenkmann family owns a mid-sized portfolio of buildings in and around the Soho area, primarily lofts like 409 Broome Street.

According to sources, the family, which originally made its fortune by patenting a hand-gun grip, has owned properties in the area for about a century.

James Famularo, the senior executive managing director at commercial firm NYCRS, said the Trenkmanns keep “beautiful old photos” of their buildings in their office, and that they tend to operate in an old-fashioned way.

“They’ll give people a two-page lease,” said Famularo. “But they’ll make a deal and stand behind it.”

The Moskowitz family is another multi-generational real estate clan with deep roots in Tribeca and Soho. According to sources, they own about 50 buildings.

Peter Moore, a developer who has been active in Hudson Square, said the Moskowitzes are known for “not selling.”

A broker who asked not to be identified said their business was very much a unique family affair: “They show up to work every morning at 7 a.m. wearing bowties.”

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