Ravenous Broadway Bunch Devouring Deals in Huge Bites

It wasn’t always this way for Broadway. In fact, the company’s devoted pursuit of prime real estate is a total departure from what was a relatively quiet first few years of existence.

The company was started in 1999 by 42-year-old Scott Lawlor, the gray-haired and fresh-faced C.E.O. who attended the Columbia School of Architecture and worked for the Fortress Investment Group, a real-estate investment firm, before he created Broadway.

He didn’t make his first Manhattan buy until last May, when he bought 660 Madison for $216 million. This was shortly after Mr. Lawlor decided to move the company’s headquarters from the sleepy Connecticut suburbs to the Seagram Building, the ultimate symbol of Manhattan power-office space. (He was also reticent about this story and ultimately declined to comment.)

The people he has hired to propel his company to the status of an elite firm have been pooled from a variety of fields instrumental in real estate: politics, finance and law.

“I think they epitomize the new type of ownership in the city,” said Peter Riguardi, the New York president at Jones Lang LaSalle. “They’re very smart, they’re extremely professional, very entrepreneurial, and they do things in a corporate way. And they are broker-friendly.”

Mr. Lawlor poached Charles Millard, a onetime City Councilman and the former head of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, from Lehman Brothers to become managing director of Broadway. The company’s chief investment officer is John Rivard, a real-estate guru who has been around for more than two decades, working last at O’Connor Capital Partners; the chief operating officer is Jonathon Yormak, a one-time star lawyer at Fried Frank; the 28-year-old director of acquisitions, David Peretz, is a Penn business grad.

It has been these men, along with a staff of about 30 others, who have created the turbocharged pace that Broadway has set for the beginning of 2007.

“They see an angle that some don’t see right now,” said Dan Fasulo, the director of market analysis for the research firm Real Capital Analytics. “And they have the money to back up their convictions.”

And where exactly is that money coming from? The company gets its financial backing from more than 150 individual investors and 12 institutional investors, according to CNBC. In essence, Broadway will target a building, call up its investors and get the money to pounce.

But it’s also this contribution of outside capital—and the ceaseless demands from investors—that leads many to believe that the company will not be a longtime landlord in the city. Whatever prizes it buys, it will sooner or later flip—or so the argument goes. Indeed, Mr. Millard said in a January interview on CNBC that Broadway buys so that it can ultimately sell.

“We’ll take a building that’s maybe 75 percent occupied, and we’ll have a plan and strategy for how to get it 90 percent occupied,” he said. “At that point, we’ll sell it to people who want 90-percent-occupied buildings.”

Mr. Millard said that Broadway will hold onto a building for anywhere from three to 10 years. That’s not exactly the timeline for the long-term owner. But being a long-term owner isn’t really a part of Broadway’s strategy.

“I admire their optimism,” said Douglas Durst, the longtime developer. “The market goes up and the market goes down, so it’s great that they’re optimistic about this cycle.”