Robert Futterman on Tommy Hilfiger’s Raleigh buy

Real estate exec tells TRD how big hotel deal came together during Art Basel

Apr.April 18, 2014 12:45 PM

Robert Futterman happened to be sitting next to Tommy Hilfiger during an Art Basel Miami Beach party in December when the fashion icon mentioned his plan to launch a new hospitality venture.

That’s how the seeds were planted for Hilfiger’s Raleigh Hotel purchase, which closed last week, said Futterman, who brokered the deal for sellers David Edelstein and Sam Nazarian. The real estate heavyweight told The Real Deal how he seized the opportunity to mention that Edelstein, Futterman’s longtime client and investment partner, and Nazarian could be interested in selling Hilfiger the 105-room hotel at 1775 Collins Avenue. Edelstein and Nazarian hired HFF to look for refinancing opportunities shortly before the chance encounter between Futterman and Hilfiger during the party at the Dutch restaurant at Edelstein’s W South Beach hotel.

“It was a dinner I’m invited to every year by Edelstein and Aby Rosen,” Futterman said. “It’s somewhat celebrity-laden. Tommy had just bought a home in Florida and his wife is from there.”

Futterman and Hilfiger chatted for more than an hour about the vision for Hilfiger Hospitality and potential locations in Miami, New York and Los Angeles, according to the RKF founder, chairman and CEO. The two exchanged text messages the following day to organize a meeting between the key parties on both sides. Within four months, the Raleigh sale officially closed.

Miami-Dade County recorded the transaction on Wednesday. Hilfiger’s Elmira Miami paid $56.5 million for the two-property site. Extensive renovations of the hotel are expected to begin by January 2015.

Hilfiger wants to blend “art, fashion, music and entertainment” at the Raleigh, Futterman said. “I think it’s a niche that’s not really covered here. He thinks it’s a real extension to his celebrity and brand to be in that business.”

South Florida real estate professionals point to Art Basel as an underrated vehicle for transaction activity. The Raleigh sale is perhaps the highest-profile example of a deal originating during the annual event.

“A lot of the big art collectors are real estate people,” Futterman said. “There’s so much culture here now and the weather is great. There’s now a group of A-listers who want to live here, play here and work here.”

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