The Closing: Bruce Eichner

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Bruce Eichner (photo by Michael Toolan)

Bruce Eichner is chairman of the Continuum Company, a privately held firm focused on the acquisition and development of residential, office, hospitality and retail space in New York, Miami and Las Vegas. His projects have included the Manhattan Club, which opened in 1997 as the city’s first time-share resort; the Continuum, a 2 million-square-foot condo community in South Beach that had openings in 2002 and 2008; and the 3,000-room Cosmopolitan Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, which opened last year.

Eichner — who started his career as a lawyer and assistant district attorney in Brooklyn and also worked in the Rockefeller administration — has dealt with his own foreclosure and defaults in the past. His firm is currently developing 10 assisted-living facilities in Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester and Fairfield counties. And he’s waiting to pounce on the chance to step in with a rescue bid at troubled Manhattan condo One Madison Park.

What is your full name?
Ian Bruce Eichner.

Why don’t people call you Ian?
Because when I was a kid, you don’t like being called “Peein’ Ian.” Also, my mother — and she pronounces it “I-on” — she’d say: “Ian Bruce Eichner, get up here now!”

What is your date of birth?
June 25, 1945. Are you aware that that [year] is the single greatest vintage of the 20th century in Bordeaux?

Where did you grow up?
Sunnyside, Queens.

Where do you live now?
I’ve been living at 52 Park Avenue. I’m about to move into a new apartment at One Morton Square [on April 1].

Do you have other homes?
In East Hampton, Las Vegas and South Beach.

How long have you been married to Leslie, who is in charge of marketing and interior design for your projects, and how did you meet?
Twenty-five years. [We met] at a pool party in East Hampton. I was dating someone else. I talked to her for three hours and then didn’t see her again for two years.

Have you been married before?
For an hour, when I was in college.

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Do you have any children?
We have a 25-year-old, Lindsay, and we have Alexandra, the magnificent, who’s 23. Alexandra just came back from China. After graduating [from the University of Pennsylvania], she decided to go to Shanghai and seek her fortune.

Did she find it?
[Laughs.] I don’t think so. She’s back — she’s “beeacck.” She and Arnold Schwarzenegger are “beeeacck.” And Lindsay works for the new start-up Town [Residential] by [Andrew] Heiberger. Lindsay has a better Rolodex than I do.

How’d you get into real estate?
I liked working for the nonprofit world … but they pay you $1.95 and all the Hi-C orange drink you can drink. So, I started ferreting around, and I had shared an office, when I was working for the DA, with a guy who lived in Park Slope. Never heard of it. … I went into the Slope in 1969 and ’70 and I said, “This thing looks to me like Greenwich Village.” I realized there was an opportunity. Only problem was — no money, no family in the business. And so I started, in 1973, with a borrowed $10,000 and I bought a rooming house at number 40 Montgomery Place from Mrs. Fitzpatrick. And then I went to a Shylock and borrowed 40,000 bucks to renovate it and I turned it into a rental

Do you have a trademark?
Maybe my ties … the designer is Leonard. I have about 100 or 150 of them.

How would you describe your personality?
I’m reasonably chatty, as you’ve ascertained. I have a semblance of a sense of humor. I have a real bevy of interests. I travel to rather esoteric places. I’m a collector. I play a lot of tennis; I still play tournaments sometimes — doubles.

You’re going on vacation tomorrow [at the time of the interview in late January]. Where are you headed?
I’m going to Rwanda to see silverback mountain gorillas and to northwest Kenya to go leopard trekking. This will be my 11th safari. I’ve been all over — Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Uganda.

How did you get into safaris?
It really started in college. I was a history major. I grew interested in the Masai, which are a tribe that occupy the Masai Mara [in] Kenya. I always wanted to go to Africa.

You are not a New York City household name like Trump and Durst and Tishman. Why do you think that is?
[Number] one is that a bunch of the people you just mentioned are families — family businesses. Number two, I have spent the preponderance of the last eight-plus years doing developments [elsewhere]. There were a zillion articles in the Vegas papers about the Cosmopolitan, and same thing in South Beach [with] the Continuum.

What’s going on at One Madison Park?
One of the creditors put it into bankruptcy in Delaware in June of last year. And I came along and proposed to inject new money [$40 million] into the building to recapitalize it and offered to finish it.

Late last month, developer Ira Shapiro and investor Cevdet Caner tentatively agreed to sell the property to HFZ Capital Group. Where does that leave you?
It is highly likely we will actively pursue a competing plan for the benefit of the creditors. [This question and answer were added after the initial interview was held to reflect unfolding developments at the project.]

What’s the deal with the condo you bought there for $5 million, a big discount from the asking price?
I bought an apartment at One Madison Park to live in. It’s part of the bankruptcy. It’s a claim that I have along with everybody else.

You defaulted on CitySpire on 56th Street and the Bertelsmann Building at 1540 Broadway, both in the early 1990s, and at the Cosmopolitan in Vegas in 2007. Are you feeling discouraged today?
No. Like I try to explain to my kids, there’s only one thing you’re in control of — your level of effort. I’m not a genius when I make $50 million. I’m not a failure if I lose it.