Justin Elghanayan: Rockrose Development’s Next Generation

Leading up to the split, your father and his brothers holed up in a conference room in early 2009 and flipped a coin to determine how best to divide a $3 billion real estate empire comprising 8,000 apartments, nine development sites and nine office buildings in New York and Washington, D.C. Were you in the room during that coin toss?
I was. I remember it. It was a pretty dramatic time, just to have things sort of hinge on a coin toss. But it’s been somewhat overdramatized because the truth is it was really a win-win. It was heads you get this amazing thing, tails you get that amazing thing, because you were going to get something good in any event.

As a result of the split, Thomas and Frederick won a portion of the portfolio, including six office buildings in Washington. Has Rockrose attempted to rebuild what it lost?
We have. What we’ve done is re-established the portfolio in D.C. with a two-building acquisition—one we closed on, 1150 18th Street NW, and one we’re in contract with, 1776 I Street NW. And we’re looking to acquire more, and we have a great team and so we’re poised to do bigger and more exciting things going forward.

Does your family still have roots to Rockrose Place, the street in Forest Hills where your grandfather, Nourallah, settled after emigrating from Iran in the 1950s?
Well, actually, it’s interesting you asked that. My grandparents lived there until they passed away two years ago, and their house was recently sold so I would say the answer is no, no more, because the house was just sold.

As the only offspring working at Rockrose—your cousins are now at TF Cornerstone—is there pressure to keep the company’s legacy alive and successful?
In terms of extending the Rockrose name, I do have big shoes to fill, but my father’s a great leader and a great chief executive, and I learn from him all the time and every day, and I’m actually very proud to be working with him.

Do you call him Dad or Mr. Elghanayan?
I never call him Mr. Elghanayan. I call him dad in a personal context and I often call him Henry—I call him by his first name—in a business context. But we’ve been very careful about separating the two things. When we’re at family functions at home, like if we’re at dinner with my mother and my brothers, then I’ll say, ‘Okay, dad, no business talk. We’re not going to talk about business for the next two hours.’ And I’ll be religious about it. And then later we’ll be having coffee or something and one of us will peek over and start bringing something up and we have to stop ourselves.

jsederstrom@observer.com