Quintessential Stephen Ross moments from “The New Kings of New York”
Color and chutzpah from TRD’s new book on real estate’s modern gilded age, available for pre-order now
Billionaire, NFL owner and one of Manhattan’s most famous loudmouthed developers, Stephen Ross has never been one to hold back his opinions. From a young age, the future Related Companies chairman showed what his elementary school principal in the Midwest called “spirit,” or what we in New York call “chutzpah.”
Call it what you want; Ross has a way with words. Some of the best have been immortalized in “The New Kings of New York,” The Real Deal’s definitive insider account of the mischief and mayhem of real estate’s modern gilded age, now available for pre-order.
Below are just a few conversational gems readers will discover from one of the biggest personalities in Big Apple real estate:
1. “Crappy office space all over the city.”
To strengthen his bid for the New York Coliseum, an aging convention hall in Columbus Circle that was prime for redevelopment following the arrival of the Javits Center several blocks south in the 1980s, Ross began courting Time Warner. He saw what NBC was to Rockefeller Center and wanted a media conglomerate to anchor a new development at the southwest corner of Central Park.
Like any seasoned negotiator, Ross knew better than to take, “Sorry, but we’re not interested,” for an answer. You see, Time Warner wasn’t really looking to buy real estate at the time — which worked out great, because Ross wasn’t selling it. What he was selling was the prestige of a centralized headquarters in an iconic Manhattan location, something worthy of what Ross called “the world’s greatest media company.”
After playing to their egos, Ross leveled with Time Warner and told them all they had now was “crappy office space all over the city.”
Moral of the story? Flattery will get you anywhere, but negging seals the deal.
2. “I told you we should have made that goddamned trade!”
There’s an old adage in sports, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” If you’re Stephen Ross, it’s more like, “If you can’t join ‘em, buy ‘em.”
We can’t all be star athletes when we grow up. Some of us end up in other fields, like real estate. Steve was one of those people.
“Since I wasn’t going to make it as a player,” he told the AP, “it was a dream to become an owner.”
Never one to give up on a dream, Ross made his childhood fantasies a reality in 2009, when he bought the Miami Dolphins and their stadium for a cool $1.1 billion.
Tensions were running high in the days leading up to the NFL draft. Interviewing him in his spacious, park-facing corner office for “The New Kings of New York,” author Adam Piore witnessed Ross, on a phone call with the Dolphins general manager 48 hours before the draft, shout at the top of his lungs, “I told you we should have made that goddamned trade!”
The moral of the story? Well, Stephen Ross said it best: “If you listen to everybody, you’re doomed for failure to start with. You’ve got to have your own mindset.”
3. The alleged desk smash
Actions speak louder than words — especially Ross’, whose words alone could shatter the most bullet-proof of egos.
But a desk?
When John J. Avlon began accepting bids for a project spanning an entire city block along Central Park West, Ross thrust his hat into the ring, along with the Zeckendorfs.
Spoiler: It went to the Zeckendorfs. A little bird told Arthur Zeckendorf that, upon receiving the news, a scorned Ross allegedly broke his desk.
Ross could not be reached for comment, perhaps because he’d rather not destroy more furniture over it.
4. “Coming home to a place I’d never been.”
Money, connections and irreverent spirit aside, Ross’ success is owed largely to a deep, abiding love for New York City.
Every New Yorker has their own New York love story. When asked about his first impression of the city, Ross’ brazenness took a back seat. He said it felt like “coming home to a place I’d never been.”
Like I said, Ross has a way with words — in this case, an unexpectedly sentimental one.
These are just snippets from a career’s worth of crazy tales and unforgettable quips. Pre-order your copy of “The New Kings of New York” today. A treasure trove of stories awaits you.