Mad Max Capital: from atop Harry Helmsley’s building, young real-estate baron buys and builds Manhattan.
Gazing out his Park Avenue office window the day before Thanksgiving, Adam Hochfelder used a small mike attached to his phone to call in a personal favor from Donald Trump.
“Hi, Rona, it’s Adam,” Mr. Hochfelder said to Mr. Trump’s executive assistant. “My two sons are dying to see the parade tomorrow, and I didn’t know if Donald had any space in any of his buildings over there to view the parade …. “
A few minutes later, Rona called back.
“Donald got my boys into Trump International to see the floats go by,” he said when he got off the phone, his face breaking into a wide grin. “They’re going to be so thrilled.”
It may still seem like a novelty to Mr. Hochfelder, 32, the young son of a garment manufacturer from Old Westbury, N.Y., to have such juice. And yet, his is one of New York’s oldest stories: a young man with a brain for business taking control of the skyline-literally.
He’s been in this office at 230 Park Avenue since 1998, when, at 27, Mr. Hochfelder stunned New York’s biggest land owners by buying the legendary building. This wasn’t just any building: It was the seat of New York real-estate legend Harry Helmsley’s power. Now it’s the headquarters of Mr. Hochfelder’s growing real-estate empire: Max Capital Management Corp. The young chairman now occupies the office that last belonged to Mr. Helmsley’s widow, Leona.
Since Max Capital’s founding in 1996, Mr. Hochfelder has amassed a commercial real-estate portfolio of seven million square feet, which rivals the holdings of many of the most prominent real-estate families in the city. His acquisitions include the former Condé Nast building at 350 Madison Avenue; 450 West 33rd Street, home to the Daily News and the Associated Press; and 237 Park Avenue, a massive building adjacent to Grand Central Terminal.
“To amass a portfolio as large as he has, at such a young age-it’s almost unfair,” said Peter Riguardi, president of the New York region of Jones Lang LaSalle, a major real-estate services firm. “It’s mind-boggling that he’s so young and he has so many things going for him.”
Indeed, Mr. Hochfelder can rely on a warm relationship with Daniel Doctoroff, the city’s economic-development czar, when he’s planning buildings: Max Capital is already planning an 800,000-square-foot residential tower in the West 30’s. A similarly-sized commercial structure is in the works for Park Avenue in the 40’s.
Mr. Hochfelder’s career really began the summer after his sophomore year at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, when he got an internship at Newmark and Co., a major real-estate services company.
“He used to walk by my office at 7 in the morning so I would see he was in the office early,” said Newmark’s president, Barry Gosin.
A year later, while serving as the chief investment officer of Atlantic Capital, a real-estate investment firm, Mr. Hochfelder met Richard Kalikow, a member of the third generation of the great New York real-estate family. Mr. Kalikow was out managing buildings that his father built, and the two ended up clicking; out of that friendship came Max Capital, with Mr. Kalikow as chairman and Mr. Hochfelder as president.
Commercial landlords make money by buying slightly run-down or neglected buildings, revamping them, and then leasing or selling them for a profit. To pay for their first such purchase, a $1.8 million building on 22nd Street, Mr. Hochfelder and Mr. Kalikow hit up friends and family members for donations. It wasn’t long until they sold a building at 810 Seventh Avenue for a profit of $36 million.
Soon thereafter, Robert Bass entered the picture. One of the wealthiest and most respected investors in the world, the Texas-based Mr. Bass was looking for a New York–based real-estate platform in which to invest. It just so happened that Mr. Hochfelder’s brother-in-law worked in Mr. Bass’s private-equity group. Through that connection, Mr. Bass approached Mr. Hochfelder-not the other way around-and all of a sudden Max Capital could compete for the most expensive buildings in the city.
But arguably Mr. Hochfelder’s boldest moment came in 2001, when he solidified his control over Max Capital by buying out Mr. Kalikow’s interest in the company. Mr. Kalikow now claims that he was stiffed on the buyout package, and claimed in a recent lawsuit that he is entitled to more money. Mr. Hochfelder, who is countersuing, declined to comment on the ongoing lawsuit.
Most days, the tall, slim and impeccably groomed Mr. Hochfelder rises around 6 a.m. at his co-op on Park Avenue at 83rd Street to spend time with his time two sons, 31¼2 and 2-“I’m addicted to my kids”-and his wife of seven years, “the best full-time mom in town.”
A NASCAR enthusiast, Mr. Hochfelder is now in a position to indulge some of his long-standing fantasies: He is currently scoping out several sites in the New York metro area that could host a track. He says no announcement is imminent.
– Blair Golson