Mayor Bloomberg was helming City Hall. Apple was still four years off from debuting the iPhone. The country had just gone to war with Iraq. Donald Trump was just a brash developer about to embark on a new reality TV show called “The Apprentice.” The city was still recovering from the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks. And StreetEasy didn’t exist.
That was the backdrop in 2003, when Amir Korangy decided there was no good source of real estate news in the city. Korangy had already launched (and sold) two publications — one targeted at the expat community in Baja, Mexico, called the Gringo Gazette/South of the Border; the other a weekly tabloid in D.C. called the Washington Free Press — and was now living in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights.
After quitting a job at Yahoo! and traveling for a while, he came back to a not-so-welcoming job market post-9/11. “The last thing people wanted was a guy named Amir with a beard and from Iran,” he said in a recent TV appearance.
Instead, he sold the two-bedroom apartment he had purchased, which had shot up in value. “I thought, ‘This was not bad, this is a lot better than working for someone for $40,000 or $50,000 a year.’ So I thought, ‘Let me do a few more of these,’” he said.
That was when the seed was planted — and when he discovered that there were no news outlets churning out hard-hitting stories about the market.
As the legend goes, the first issues of The Real Deal were patched together in Korangy’s apartment. His college friend Yoav Barilan (now director of marketing operations) was drumming up advertising, and they soon brought on a freelancer, Stuart Elliott (TRD’s longtime editor-in chief) to write features.
The first issues were slim, but it was immediately clear that there was demand for the content. In the first year, cover stories featured Stephen Ross, Dan Doctoroff, Trump, Bill Rudin, Andrew Heiberger, Larry Silverstein and a slew of other high rollers. Those first issues also laid the groundwork for the ranking and data-driven stories that TRD is so known for today.
In 2004 — after triumphing in court in a trademark battle with the late investment banker Bruce Wasserstein, who owned the Deal — TRD moved into its first office, in a former psychic’s space above a Radio Shack on East 23rd Street. Clothes were strewn on the floor and a half-eaten bag of popcorn was left in the microwave when the staff arrived.
And three years later, TRD upgraded again, this time into a proper 5,000-square-foot office on West 29th Street, ramping up staff on both the editorial and sales sides — and tackling more aggressive (and award-winning) stories on everything from monster building sales to distressed loans to the construction of flashy condos through the Great Recession. We’ve also published a book, produced a movie and launched in South Florida and Los Angeles along the way — in addition to hosting dozens of events everywhere from Lincoln Center to L.A. and from Southampton to Shanghai. Today, TRD has more than 70 employees and is stationed in a full-floor office on the edge of Hudson Yards. And we just launched in Chicago.
Oh, how times have changed — both for the real estate market and for this media company. We can’t wait for the next 15! Onward!