How one woman built a Manhattan millionaires’ club

66 East 55th Street and Jennie Enterprise
66 East 55th Street and Jennie Enterprise

WEEKENDEDITION “This was a piece of dirt,” Jennie Enterprise said over lunch in her flawless dining room at Manhattan’s CORE: club. “I found out who owned the dirt.”

Since opening in 2005, the CORE: club on East 55th Street has become a gathering space for the world’s most transient species — millionaires and billionaires. For them, CORE: is a second home (or office, or gym, or theater, or art gallery, or dining room). It is not a place to merely play squash and see everyone you know; it is a place to conduct the business of life.

Enterprise, the club’s founder, designed it that way. She turned that “piece of dirt,” an empty space in Midtown Manhattan, into a stage where the world’s dealmakers can play out their own dramas. That’s how she tells it.

“Everyone here understands that every moment is a live or die moment,” said Enterprise. Her staff is trained to understand how that moment could vary from member to member.

Hedge fund manager Mark Lasry, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and former Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Nathan Myhrvold all pay the $50,000 initiation fee and $15,000 annual membership fee for access to the club’s facilities and its most important resource: its members.

If you meet Enterprise, you get the sense that she could’ve built the 40-story building (the club takes up six floors, the rest of the highrise houses condos) herself, beam by beam. She has an infectious energy that pushes everything in her presence forward — people, conversations or ideas.

It’s probably what drove her, as a 13-year-old from the Bronx, to start a summer tennis camp on Shelter Island as her first job. She made $10,000 in three months.

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“To be perfectly candid I wasn’t even a particularly good tennis player,” she said.

Enterprise broke into the business world in 1991 after cobbling together the people, the dollars, and the plan for what would become The Reebok Club. That’s her talent: getting things together and making sure everyone and everything is on the same page.

CORE: club was the perfect outlet for her skills, and it would take every one of them. Enterprise started the project before September 11, 2001, but after that tragedy, funds were scarce. It was a delicate time to approach anyone, especially New York-based investors.

So Enterprise found a different way to fund the club. “Founding members” committed $100,000 each. She set up a war room where she broke down the world’s most successful people into 13 industries, from retail to finance to technology. Regardless of the type of business, the internet was creating a new class of entrepreneur that Enterprise knew would prefer the inertia of a club like CORE: over more traditional establishments.

Then she invited them to her space — a space in which every corner was constructed to serve an architectural purpose. The invitation was hand-delivered in the form of a white box, care of one of the founding members who had connections with those who were invited.

“I knew that if something represented innovation to them, they would pay attention,” Enterprise said over a simple plate of scrambled eggs. She had already had a few meetings over meals that day. From her perch in the corner of the dining room, she was as much a part of the scene as she was observing it.

“I have my finger on the pulse of interesting, accomplished people that are changing the world,” said Enterprise.

And in hosting them, she gets to learn from them too. That’s what really feeds her.