The Closing: Alan Wiener

The Wells Fargo multifamily finance executive on showing Jimmy Carter the South Bronx, lending on Stuy Town, and buying exotic cufflinks

Alan Wiener is the group head of Wells Fargo Multifamily Capital, where he specializes in large multifamily loans to landlords and developers. Last year, his division shelled out upward of $16 billion in debt, including the $2.7 billion mortgage to Blackstone Group and Ivanhoe Cambridge for their purchase of Stuyvesant Town–Peter Cooper Village. He founded his own company, American Property Financing, in 1992 and sold it to Wachovia for an undisclosed amount in 2006. He moved to Wells Fargo in early 2009, after the banking giant acquired Wachovia for $15.4 billion. Before jumping into real estate finance, Wiener served as area manager of the New York office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, assistant to former New York City mayor Abe Beame, and Deputy Commissioner in the city’s housing department.

You grew up in the North Bronx. What was that like?

I walked to school and I played stickball every day. It was a working-class neighborhood just after the war. A lot of people had just come from Europe. One of my sets of grandparents was from Russia and the other was from Poland.

What were you like as a kid?

I was a wise guy. I was barred from going to my high school graduation. There was an English teacher who wouldn’t give me a grade because I cut most of the second semester.

What was your first job?

Alan Wiener (Photo by Studio Scrivo)

Alan Wiener (Photo by Studio Scrivo)

I worked as a waiter in college. It was a place in the Pocono Mountains owned by the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. All the union workers would go there on vacation.

Were you a ladies’ man?

I was as a young man. I like women. But I’ve been married to the same woman for 46 years now. We met on a blind date.

What attracted you to her?

For one thing, she’s beautiful. I was in law school and she was in college, a little Catholic girls’ school in Washington.

Is she a devout Catholic?

No, she’s smarter than that. She doesn’t do well with the bullshit. She’s pretty intellectual about it.

What’s your secret to a happy marriage?

I have a very secure wife. She’s confident. She doesn’t take any shit from me or anyone else.

Do you have kids?

Yes, two boys and a girl. The oldest is 42 and the youngest is 32. My oldest son works [at Wells Fargo].

What’s it like working with him?

It’s fine, he doesn’t report to me. The bank has all these anti-nepotism policies.

How many years did you work in government before going into banking?

After I graduated from law school, I was a legal services lawyer representing poor people. I did a lot of my stuff in the South Bronx. At that time, in the 1970s, there was a lot of crime and devastation. From there, I got offered a job by the city and spent nine years in government.

You helped organize President Jimmy Carter’s famous tour of the South Bronx when you worked as an advisor to the mayor.

Yes, it was top secret. They told me I couldn’t tell anyone — so I assumed I couldn’t even tell the mayor, Abe Beame. After it was over, the HUD secretary told the mayor how helpful I’d been, and he called me into his office. He said, “What, did you think I’d be a security risk?”

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It’s been a tough few months for Wells Fargo. What do you make of all the scandal talk?

I know as much as you know. It’s unfortunate because I think it’s a well-run place and it has a good culture. I’m sorry that happened, but I’m sure they’ll correct it.

You recently worked on the $2.7 billion financing for the acquisition of Stuy Town. That’s one for the books, isn’t it?

In the last five or six years, we’ve financed Starrett City, Parkchester, Manhattan Plaza, Co-op City, and now Stuy Town. People would always ask me when I’m going to retire, and I would always say, “I’ll retire once I finance Stuy Town.”

But you didn’t retire….

Not yet. Steve Ross and I have a pact: We’re going to retire the same day. And he told me he’s never going to retire.

Did you have a mentor?

John Zuccotti [who died in 2015] was my best friend. We met when I worked for him at City Hall, and we became fast friends. He was a real renaissance man. We used to talk virtually every day. I miss him a lot.

What did he think of the name Zuccotti becoming synonymous with Occupy Wall Street?

It upset him.

The Occupy Wall Street protesters came to your house, right?

We were sitting home and I hear this clamor outside. I look out and I see like 50 people on the street with placards. I actually thought they were there for my next-door neighbor, who ran real estate at Lehman Brothers.  They were stupid. They just looked up Wells Fargo and marched to my house, then left a couple of things nailed to my door.

What homes do you have apart from your one in Rye?

A place in the city on 49th Street and one in Martha’s Vineyard. We went up there for most of August.

Do you have mortgages on them?

I have no mortgages. I just don’t like debt. At least, I don’t like personal debt.

Where do you stand politically?

I’m socially liberal and fiscally quite conservative.

What do you make of Donald Trump?

It’s degrading. He’s grotesque. He’s like the leader of a circus.

So, you’re voting for Hillary?

I always vote.

You’re wearing ladybug cufflinks. Where did you get them?

There is a fabulous English maker of cufflinks online. They’re based in Birmingham and they ship. I have octopuses, crabs, fruit flies. I have a lot of cufflinks.