The closing: Robert K. Futterman

Robert K. Futterman (photo by Michael Toolan)

Robert K. Futterman is the founder, chairman and CEO of Robert K. Futterman & Associates. With offices in New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, northern New Jersey and San Francisco, the retail firm has been responsible for nearly $20 billion in real estate transactions since its founding in 1998, and is currently marketing retail space at 11 Times Square and 855 Sixth Avenue. Futterman has personally been involved in transactions totaling some $10 billion.

What is your full name?

Robert Kenneth Futterman.

Why do you use the “K”? I heard it’s because there was a developer named Robert Futterman.

There was another Robert Futterman, but that’s not why I use the “K.” I grew up in the business admiring Edward S. Gordon [head of Edward S. Gordon Company]. I liked the E.S.G. — it was a person who became a brand.

When were you born?

December 14, 1958.

Where did you grow up?

Jericho, Long Island. Exit 40 off the L.I.E.

Where do you live now?

I have a home in Greenwich and an apartment in the city. I usually rent in the Hamptons in the summer.

Where do you spend most of your time?

I’m in the city every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night, and every Thursday night I go to Connecticut to be with my kids. I have two boys, ages 16 and 18.

How did you get into real estate?

I was interested in going into the music business. Concert promotion is what I did in college at the University of Maryland. But it was a weird time, it was 1981. MTV had just been created. Naysayers were saying that the live concert business would become obsolete, record companies were laying people off, and the compact disc was just invented. I got discouraged from finding a job in the music business. I didn’t want to work on Wall Street. I liked the concept of real estate, that you could use your sales skills and at the same time get out of the office and meet people. I ended up interviewing at Garrick-Aug Associates, which was in the retail leasing business, and it really seemed perfect for me.

Why? Were you a big shopper?

I love to shop, and I love to walk the streets and get the exercise and update our maps and call people and always ask for the most important person at the company. I’d ask for Harry Helmsley, I’d ask for Donald Trump. If they directed me somewhere else, then so be it. But I had no fear of calling the top people.

Are you still into music now, and do you play instruments?

I play the guitar and sing. Right now I like the Decemberists and Mumford & Sons. I’m constantly finding new music.

You dropped out of college. How has that impacted your career?

It hasn’t impacted my career. … I was able to learn enough in college and enough in life to deal with anybody. I can deal with friends of mine who are Harvard MBAs; I can deal with the guy that owns the chain of local delicatessens.

Did you ever want to go back and get your degree?

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After a while it became less of a big deal to me. I haven’t really had a burning desire to go back and get it.

What’s your greatest achievement?

It’s really going out on my own and starting the company. It will be 13 years in August. Pulling it off and making it successful — it took a lot of guts, and it paid off.

What’s a mistake you’ve made in your career?

A lot of the mistakes are the deals I didn’t do, the opportunities that slipped through my fingers. I’ve had some real successes … but there have been a couple of clunkers too. [Laughs.] … Investing in some land in Las Vegas.

Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Faith Hope Consolo has been called the Queen of Retail. Are you the king?

[Laughs.] I would say [RKF Executive Vice President] Karen Bellantoni is the Queen of Retail. I don’t think my ego would allow me to call myself king.

You’re divorced. Are you dating?

I have a very serious girlfriend. Her name is Hollie Watman. She’s a children’s clothing designer.

How did you meet her?

She lived in my building. We lived in the building, the Porter House in Chelsea, for almost three years and never really talked to each other. Then I ran into her at the Soho House. And she recognized me, and said, “Aren’t you my neighbor?” And we’ve been going out ever since.

Are you going to get married again soon?

Well, we bought an apartment together [at 345 West 13th Street].

When you were single, did you consider yourself a playboy?


What do you in your free time?

I play golf; I play basketball with my kids. My girlfriend has me going to fitness classes, Core Fusion. I’m such a good boyfriend. [Laughs.]

You invested money with Bernie Madoff — what was the impact of that?

I didn’t get hurt too bad.

Did you know Madoff personally?

No. My accountant recommended I invest some money. … That was just one account. But it’s a travesty; I feel completely taken advantage of. It’s just disgusting. I think the SEC dropped the ball. It makes me angry. I have a hard time even reading all these articles. … I change the channel if it’s on TV. But I’m lucky it wasn’t life-changing. I think the real travesty is the people who [lost] their life savings; that’s who your heart breaks for.

Did you fire your accountant?

I switched accountants.