David Werner is NYC’s top real estate buyer in 2014 — how does he do it?

Under-the-radar Brooklynite "works like a broker but transacts like a principal." 

From left: the Socony Mobil Building and 5 Times Square
From left: the Socony Mobil Building and 5 Times Square

Low-profile Brooklyn investor David Werner, who brings T-shirts with smiley and frowny faces to his high-stakes negotiations, is the biggest buyer of real estate in New York City in 2014 so far.

Werner bought two office towers in Manhattan for a combined $2.37 billion. He bought 5 Times Square — Ernst & Young LLP’s headquarters — for roughly $1.5 billion and the Socony Mobil Building for roughly $900 million. The Times Square Tower sale was the biggest since Google paid $1.8 billion for its building at 111 Eighth Avenue, according to Bloomberg News.

Earlier this month, the Borough Park investor partnered with Rubin Schron and the Cohen family in a $285 million transaction for the land under 100 West 57th Street, as reported by The Real Deal.

Those two transactions officially catapulted Werner to the position of biggest buyer of the year, according to Real Capital Analytics data cited by Bloomberg. Also on the list: SL Green Realty Corp. at number seven and private equity firm Blackstone Group LP in 10th place.

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One of Werner’s strategies is to form groups of investors for his acquisitions. Kenneth Patton, the dean emeritus of New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate told Bloomberg that Werner “works like a broker but transacts like a principal.” Eastdil Secured’s Doug Harmon, who dealt with Werner on the 5 Times Square and Mobil deals, told Bloomberg that Werner is a “wizard.”

“He plies his trade with a maniacal relentlessness that is as efficient as it is effective,” Harmon continued. “He’s a real quick study, and he’s made billions of dollars for his investors.”

Among Werner’s biggest quirks is carrying two T-shirts with him to all his negotiations, according to Bloomberg. One, with a smiley face on it, says “Aggravation Free,” a promise to sellers that he’ll close quickly and with a big chunk of cash. The other T-shirt has a frowny face and says “Free Aggravation,” a warning to sellers about what to expect if they go elsewhere.

If the $2.25 billion sale of 1095 Sixth Avenue goes through before the end of the year, however, Canadian investor Ivanhoe Cambridge would surpass Werner as the year’s number one buyer.  [Bloomberg News] — Claire Moses