What was it like to work with the Trumps, the co-developers on Trump SoHo—specifically, Donald?
Great. I think the whole organization—I think the father’s great, I think Ivanka, Don, Eric, even down to their personnel—is great. My father and Donald Trump have been friends for a long time; they live in the same building. Our other partner, Bayrock Group, is also partners with Trump on one or two projects which we’re not involved with. But, collectively, we all said, ‘O.K., let’s do this.’ And Trump is obviously the most recognized name in real estate. It’s more recognized than any Blackstone or Related or anyone else.
How old were you when you first met Donald? Do you remember the circumstances?
I probably met Donald, I would say, probably when I was around 17 or 18. I remember once going to Donald’s office with my father. At that time, I was even celebrity-stricken.
My father was saying hello, and they talked about some business.
What’s the status of Trump SoHo as far as construction?
We’re on the 13th floor. By next week or the week after [late September], we should be pouring two floors a week.
Your father bought the Duke Semans mansion across Fifth Avenue from the Metropolitan Museum in January 2006 for $40 million. What are the plans for the mansion?
He has one of the largest private European ivory collections in the world; and he is going to showcase it there, like a museum.
What’s the timeline on that?
A couple of years out. He wants to really do it right.
So that entire mansion will be a museum for the public?
Right—an expensive museum. Again, we try to do things that are really unique and one of a kind.
Can you explain your relationship with your father? How often do you talk?
Thirty-eight times a day. I call him, he calls me; we’re like best friends. He’s got more energy than I do; he can’t stand still.
How old is he?
He just turned 60. We celebrated his birthday in Monaco. We threw a huge party for him—it was a huge event, from six in the evening to six in the morning.
What sort of advice did he give you business-wise?
He taught me something that’s really interesting, which I’m really learning: The pioneers are always called ‘the crazies.’ When my father bought 2 Broadway, he was called ‘the crazy Russian.’ If they’re calling you crazy, it means you’re doing something different that’s going to end up being good.
When we bought William Beaver House, 15 William Street in the Financial District, people said, ‘What are you doing? It’s a $900-a-foot neighborhood.’ They were projecting a lower number than what we’re selling at today. I think it’s one of the best neighborhoods in the city. It’s getting better; there’s major retail coming down there. A Hermes has opened; Tiffany’s is coming down there; the BMW store is, I think, the highest-grossing in the country. It’s the financial capital of the financial capital.
They called us crazy for doing the project, and you know what? Now, it’s great.
Is there anything else quote/unquote crazy that you’ve got planned?
Everything I’m going to do for the rest of my life is going to be crazy.