Face-to-Face with Harry Macklowe Part 4

October 04, 2018

In the fourth part of this exclusive series, Harry Macklowe, Chairman of Macklowe Properties and EisnerAmper Real Estate Services Group Chair Ken Weissenberg talk about how to get deals done.


Ken Weissenberg: Ken Weissenberg from EisnerAmper here with Harry Macklowe at 432 Park Avenue, a magnificent building. You're very involved with the Israeli museum.

Harry Macklowe: Yes.

KW: I know that you've been a major contributor for many, many years. Tell us about your interest there.

HM: Well we, husband and wife team, have been involved with the museum for probably 40 years. The museum is an extraordinary institution. Israel is very involved in culture, The state was founded in 1948,1968, 20 years after its inception, decided to build a national museum. It was built by Teddy Kollek who was then the mayor of Jerusalem and an international figure. And he felt that it was extremely important to build an encyclopedic museum; one that could not rival the Met, but was certainly fashioned after it. There were many donations and a great deal of philanthropy from the United States, and from around the world so the Israel Museum this was formed and it was built. The Dead Sea Scrolls, which are important documents, were incorporated in the museum and it has grown over the 50 years of its existence to a point where it is as highly regarded as this daedalic, as the tate and not superior to but on a par with an encyclopedic museum with the Met. So we've been supporters of it through our interest in art. We’ve been supporters of the Whitney, the Modern, and the Guggenheim all because of our interest in contemporary and classic art. But art is art, and it's exciting whether it's heraldic art or whether it's Judaic art or Islamic. The involvement with museums, as far as I'm concerned and my family, has been wonderful and enlightening and I'm always learning something whether, it's through the museum or through just ordinary discourse.

KW: What was the first building you purchased?

HM: A loft building on 28th Street between Park Avenue South and Madison Avenue. I actually had a building on Fifth Avenue, between 36th and 37th Street, but the deal kind of cratered at the last moment. That was also mine. And then I was involved in some very large residential development in Fairfax, Virginia which is right outside of Washington and that almost happened, but didn’t. With those two disappointments, I made sure that my building on 28th Street didn't escape me. And I've always said, and people asked me about my career and how do you make deals. I've always said that the only way you make a deal and this is for everybody who might be listening, the only way to make a deal is surprisingly enough, is to make a deal! There will be advisors and there will be people who will tell you why it won't work and why it's not a good deal and you must, I believe, be totally committed to yourself because you're the only one who can talk to yourself. You can advise me, my lawyers can advise me, my peers within the office can advise me, but the final decision really needs to be internal. If I can look in the mirror and feel that I've made the right decision and that it's my decision alone, then I believe in it, and I will make that happen. There are many naysayers, of course, otherwise everybody else would be buying deals and it would be considerably easier.

KW: I remember when you bought the GM building. People were saying, “Oh my god he spent so much money on that,” and you’ll never make a profit, and within five years, you more than doubled your money.

HM: That was pretty remarkable. General Motors was terrific, and I think it's probably the finest building in the city. And when I say to the city, I think the finest building in the United States so I always think of New York as the quasi-capitol of the United States.

KW: If not the world.

HM: So earlier, I said to all of you and I said to myself, I've been very lucky. I've been lucky to be in a business which is dynamic. And I've also been lucky to be in a business where if you reach further, and if you think it out, you have a chance of a great success. Sometimes the success is monetary, sometimes the success is physical and monetary. But oftentimes the success should always be consistently satisfying, to be something that just fulfills you. That should be overwhelmingly good and proud and accomplishment and something that you can really feel good about. You don't have to have anybody else tell you it's a good deal. It's something that internal you should feel. There are all of these kind of benchmarks in making a deal. You have to believe in it and you have to make that deal. You have to push aside naysayers, you have to push aside attorneys who say you're exposed here, you have to judge what your exposure is, and I've never in my entire career done a bad deal. I've done great deals. I've had great deals that have turned bad because of timing, because of banking, because force is well beyond our control. But with patience, all of those values, both are restored and grow, if they are the right choices and I think that my life has been filled with the right choices.

KW: I mean you've gone through many cycles in real estate and always came out, coming back stronger and stronger. You're back on top with this property and the other projects you have going on, it's just a pleasure to work with you and to see how well you have been doing.

HM: Well I’ve been happy to speak to you and I hope the people who are watching it share my enthusiasm for what it is that they want to do. So stick to your guns, feel good about your decisions, and make them and move on.

KW: Thank you so much.

HM: You’re welcome.


About Kenneth Weissenberg

Kenneth Weissenberg CPA, Tax Partner in Real Estate Services, is experienced in tax saving strategies and negotiating sales and acquisitions. He represents owners of some of the most well-known real estate properties in New York City.

More in This Series