Face to Face with L&L Holding Co's Robert Lapidus Part 4

October 03, 2018

In the fourth part of this interview series, EisnerAmper Partner Lisa Knee speaks with Robert Lapidus of L&L Holding Co. They discuss the career path of Robert Lapidus in this segment, including his transition from real estate lawyer to developer.


Lisa Knee: We're here today with Robert Lapidus President and Chief Investment Officer of L&L Holdings Co. Rob thank you so much for sharing the afternoon with us on this beautiful day.

Rob Lapidus: Pleasure we're not wearing coats but we're cold.

LK: There’re no walls.

RL: Yes that's true.

LK: You co-founded L&L Holdings Co in 2000 with David Levinson, and can you comment a little how your personalities and styles have allowed you to amass over 15 years quite an impressive portfolio and still work together and build an impressive company?

RL: David and I have an extremely strong relationship he's the best partner one could ever imagine and our philosophies and our value system have always been very similar and we built the business based upon a few ideas of excellence and collaboration, our goal was to build the best platform we possibly could so we could bring on the best talent so we could undertake the types of tasks that we do. And our value system our orientation towards family and quality of life are very similar even though we're different people different personalities, but we really have an exceptionally strong partnership we like each other we love each other we have each other's back and we're just very fortunate to have each other in our lives.

LK: You started your career off though as a real estate lawyer so what made you make that jump in to developer?

RL: Getting training going to law school is it's great trainings gray background but being a lawyer and the life that sort of leads it's a vicarious existence, your billing hours you have control of your own time and being part of something that's yours is just a more satisfying type of experience. So for me going to law school, becoming a lawyer, was never about practicing law for my entire career, it was really about getting the educational background understanding the way lawyers think arguments improving writing and just sort of that strategic type of thinking that law school helps with and then after you get that education I thought was very important to actually practice more for a while and not just get the degree. So I practice law in a private firm for a couple of years but then I actually went to go work as an in-house lawyer for a big real estate company and that was actually much more enjoyable because I was part of something, and that's really where sort of the DNA came out of being more entrepreneurial and wanting to be in the real estate business as an owner as a principle as a developer as opposed to being an advisor.

LK: What was the most difficult project you've worked on and how is that, what have you learned from that experience?

RL: You know everything we do is hand-to-hand combat nothing is simple, the process of buying a building building a building designing a building going through the approval process, I mean we have a great team and David and I might be the figureheads of the company and the public face of the company, but we have 300 people who are really talented who work really hard to execute all these projects so each deal we're involved with had a period of time where it felt like it was impossible it was on daunting but we somehow figured it out. I mean something high-profile obviously something like 425 park which we were involved for a long period of time we were designing a building Midtown rezoning still has not been adopted so we had to design a building while keeping twenty-five percent of the structure in place and not only that we owned it with Lehman Brothers, so during our ownership we had to deal we were partners with Mark Walsh one day and the next thing we were partners with you know it was Wilgotschwin Alavez and Marcel, so we had to deal with the whole ownership issue there which is complicated enough and then the design and development phase there was all so complicated. that probably highlights a lot of what was really complicated about what we, did but 205th there's a story about that that was really complicated too so most of our buildings we tend to take on situations they need a lot of work so we don't buy core assets we build a core and when you buy things that need a lot work there's obviously lots of issues and more things that sort of move around so you know we're in the I would say mitigation of risk business, trying to understand what those potential problems are and figure out a way to mitigate the risk around those problems so we can achieve the ultimate objective we're trying to achieve.

LK: So I think early on in your career you worked as a cabana boy in Atlantic Beach.

RL: That's true I mean it's a song about that.

LK: And there's some movies about that too as well right, and having experience in understanding that cabana boys work really hard, how has that helped you in any training for what you do today on a daily basis?

RL: I'm actually not the only person in real estate who's a senior person organization who started off as a cabana boy.

LK: Really?

RL: Yes but I'll let other people bring that out it was a great job, first of all the most important thing about that job I met my wife that summer so it was you know, it was destiny, but in the summer of 1980 one hundred years ago I believe my salary was like $87 a week I was making six hundred dollars a week in tips.

LK: Wow.

RL: So you worked really hard you got up really early you basically were a paid slave.

LK: Rain or shine.

RL: Rain or shine and you always hated the people in the rain who said what a gorgeous day the sun's coming out and you just wanted to go home.

LK: By the way the weather is different on the north shore than the south shore.

RL: That's true the beach is better on the south shore but no it was like everything else in life you're dealing with people you're dealing with situations you're managing different types of personalities, and I was really tan I was out in the sun and a whole summer so it was a really good job and again most importantly I met Carol there so July 13th 1980.

LK: So when people mention the name Rob Lapidus they say developer, outgoing person and Deadhead.

RL: Oh yeah is that what they said?

LK: So I have to ask what's the furthest you've ever traveled to go to a concert and how many have you actually been to? And are you a Deadhead?

RL: I am clearly a Deadhead and by the way in our industry there is there is a long list of people in the commercial real estate industry who are Deadheads. I mean it's amazing when we want to go to these shows very often with a lot of my friends in the industry so I've seen about five hundred shows I've traveled all over the country to see them over the years so obviously as far as California and Florida etc., listen I really enjoyed the music and you know although obviously the Grateful Dead isn’t the Grateful Dead since Jerry Garcia died 20 years ago, but they managed they’re having a good time they're still speaking to their audience and in all the different incarnations that they have just love their music and to me being at a concert being at a music venue is really one of my favorite things to do and the Dead is just you know my number one amongst that, but I love music I go to lots of concerts that are not the Dead but yeah so it's been it's been a long strange trip as we like to say.

LK: That's a great quote to end this on thank you.

About Lisa Knee

Lisa Knee is a Tax Partner and National leader of the firm's Real Estate practice and the National Real Estate Private Equity Group with expertise in the hotel, real estate, financial services, aviation and restaurant sectors and is a member of AICPA, New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants and the New York State Bar Association.

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