How Real Estate Giants Spend Their Wealth

Many of real estate’s heaviest hitters have indulged their fantasies and invested in the biggest and best toys money can buy. With the last financial crisis long in the past and the stock market at an all-time high, these mostly New York real estate developers have found a variety of ways in which to have fun and enjoy life.

Roughly 4.3% of the world’s ultra-high net worth individuals made their money in real estate. Katherine Clarke, in a recent article in The Real Deal, looks at how these A-listers are spending their wealth (Real Estate Titans… and Their Toys). Despite the anti-1% marches and a bit of belt-tightening 10 years ago, these real estate titans are now spending more freely on extravagant parties, lavish yachts and fabulous art collections.

The guest list at Stephen Schwarzman’s 70th birthday party at his Palm Beach mansion included Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, art dealer, Larry Gagosian, and billionaire Republican donor, David Koch. Schwarzman, head of Blackstone, had live camels, trapeze artists and entertainer Gwen Stefani. The party reportedly cost upwards of $10 million. His 60th birthday party had Rod Stewart perform for his guests, which led one of the party-goers to remark, it was a giant “grown-up bar mitzvah.”

Harry Macklowe, developer of 432 Park Avenue, is said to own a $1 billion dollar art collection. This has gained much attention as he is presently in the throes of a nasty divorce. His estranged wife is claiming she is entitled to half of his estate which was collected during their 40-year marriage. The art collection includes works by Mark Rothko, Franz Kline and Gerhard Richter.

Real estate developers for the most part are “investment-savvy,” according to Emily Santangelo, a New York art consultant. Many have used their art collection as business collateral.  “Art started as a passion when they began making good money, and they quickly realized the value-add that comes with putting them in their projects.”

Other developers who have amassed vast art collections include Sheldon Solow, who holds a significant amount of post-war art. Purchased some time ago, the value has increased greatly over the years. He recently sold a Giacometti sculpture for $126 million.

Developer Edward Minskoff, who owns a 6,000 pound Jeff Koons sculpture of a red rabbit, also exhibits his 12,000 pound Noguchi sculpture in Hudson Square near the Holland Tunnel.

Among the riskier investments are professional sports teams. While there can be horrific losses associated with losing franchises, many have vastly increased their team’s value. For example, Jed Walentas who heads Two Trees Management seems to have picked a winner. He purchased a piece of the San Francisco Giants (his “fantasy camp”) 10 years ago. Since then, they have won three World Series titles and are now valued at $2.25 billion.

Other team owners involved in New York real estate are Jonathan Tisch, chairman of Loews Corporation, whose family owns the New York Giants and David Levinson of L&L Holdings who owns a stake in the New York Yankees.

Other indulgences include vast wine collections, llama ranches, classic automobiles and private jets to visit their various vacation homes.

Among the most extravagant of all the real estate tycoons is Gil Dezer of Miami. His Porsche collection – apart from the 1,200 cars he keeps in the Miami Auto Museum –is worth millions. Each one is painted a shade of silver. The most expensive is a $1.5 million Bugatti Veyron. His 60-story Porsche Design Tower includes an auto elevator. This allows him – and other residents of the building – to park his vehicle inside his condo.

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