Day in the Life of: Stuart Siegel

The head of Engel & Völkers’ New York office on clandestine agent meetings, being plugged into the city’s Greek community and the importance of (low-fat) ice cream

Stuart Siegel (Photo by Larry Ford)
Stuart Siegel (Photo by Larry Ford)

Stuart Siegel is CEO of residential brokerage Engel & Völkers’ New York City operation, which launched in 2014 and now has 60 agents. The Hamburg, Germany-based firm, which has 716 offices spread across 32 countries worldwide, may be a new player in the city, but it clocked in with $126.6 million in listings in May on The Real Deal’s annual brokerage ranking, putting it in fourth place among Manhattan’s mid-sized residential firms. As of mid-September, the firm had $300 million in listings. The brokerage also notably represented the (unidentified) buyer in one of the priciest sales to close at 432 Park, a $59.1 million full-floor condo.

At 61, Siegel has had a storied career in the industry. The Upper East Side native studied art history at Kenyon College before going on to earn a graduate degree in architectural history from the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture. In 1981, he started working at Sotheby’s International Realty, where he served as president and CEO for 15 years starting in 1991. In that time, he led the $100 million sale of the real estate division in 2004 to Realogy Holdings, the parent company of brokerages such as the Corcoran Group and Citi Habitats.

5 a.m. I used to go to the gym in my building at 60th Street and West End  Avenue three or four days a week to cycle or do CrossFit. But I just had my shoulder replaced and I’m about to get my knee replaced, so physical therapy has become my gym routine. I sound like the Tin Man from “The Wizard of Oz.”

Tin-man6 a.m. I make calls at home to the parent company in Germany, which is six hours ahead of New York. We discuss long-term strategic initiatives, and I also talk to the company’s founder, Christian Völkers. His company was the first affiliate that Sotheby’s ever had outside the U.S., so we’ve known each other since the early 1980s.

7 a.m. I digest the New York newspapers — the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the daily bible, the New York Post — as well as a German paper like Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. I multitask between watching “Morning Joe,” eating steel-cut oatmeal with local honey, drinking two cups of coffee, doing the crossword puzzle and trying to be attentive to my wife [interior designer Addie Havemeyer], who is not a morning person. 

8 a.m. I leave my rental building — we sold our large duplex co-op on West End Avenue a few years ago after our three children moved out. I then walk to my favorite shoeshine stand, Dino’s Shoe Repair on Broadway, at least three times a week. There, I find out about the latest pet peeve of the Greek New York community. I’ve always had an affinity for small businesses owned by Greek families.

Jason_Bourne_soundtrack_cover9 a.m. I get into the office and sit down with our analyst and the head of marketing. We have a very informal “what’s happening” meeting over our iced coffees from Italian food chain Obicà — my third of the day. 

10 a.m. My role here is really as an adviser and coach to our agents.  An agent may want help identifying potential capital sources for a deal. Or an assistant manager may need help structuring a package for a new agent coming to work for us. We’re in a market under transition, which is the toughest market for agents. Sellers think they’re selling 18 months ago, and buyers think they’re buying 18 months from now.

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11 a.m. I have three to five meetings a week with agents who have expressed interest in working for us. We go to places where we can remain pretty anonymous. I feel like I’m in a Jason Bourne novel. Our strategy has been to get a toe-hold established with a 60-person office. Starting next year, we’ll look at expansion opportunities in the area.

turkey-burger12:30 p.m. My kind of lunch is going out in short sleeves to Burger Heaven on East 53rd Street, talking to the waitress and eating a Greek salad with spinach or turkey burger. I have a business development-related lunch at least twice a week, often on behalf of an agent. Then, we might meet at Brasserie 8½, the Monkey Bar or the Links Club, where I’m a member.

1:30 p.m. Most afternoons, I try to carve out time for non-business activities. I’m on the boards of the New York Landmarks Conservancy and the Neighborhood Coalition for Shelter. I recently had a call with Peg Breen, president of the conservancy, about the Midtown East rezoning and whether or not the Waldorf Astoria’s interior spaces are designated.

3 p.m. More agent stuff. I recently did a walk-through of an 11,000-square-foot, 37-foot-wide townhouse at 3 Riverside Drive that we’re listing for $20 million. I expected heavy wood and darkness, but it’s wide and bright. I brainstormed with the agent on possible buyers to target. This will either be for someone with an appetite for a major renovation or a foundation.

6 p.m. After leaving the office, I try not to go to work-related drinks or dinner. My day starts so early. I also have to go to Europe every other month.

7 p.m. We have very simple grilled food and roasted vegetables. But I have to have my ice cream — Dreyer’s or Edy’s Slow Churned low-fat version.

University_Of_Virginia_Logo 8 p.m. I watch a lot of sports. I root for the Mets, Giants, Rangers. I live and die with UVA, which has a very unpredictable football team.

10 p.m. I have a bizarre appetite for quirky historical nonfiction. I recently read “The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu,” about librarians who smuggled thousands of ancient Islamic manuscripts out of Timbuktu.

11 p.m. We record Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert and watch them on weekends. The end of my day is a quick scan on the iPad for emails and sports scores, and then it’s to bed.