In the early summer of 2008, Arthur G. Cohen rode the elevator to Harry Macklowe’s 21st-floor office in the G.M. Building wearing a black suit and bright pink dress shirt. Mr. Macklowe, sporting navy blue pinstripes and a multibillion-dollar real estate empire under siege, signed away his beloved Drake Hotel site to an enterprise called CMZ for $850 million.
CMZ is one of the more bizarre development teams ever assembled in the city, yet its existence has remained hidden until now from all but a handful of insiders. One-time top developer Mr. Cohen joined Washington lobbying czar Paul Manafort and Brad Zackson, a scrappy former righthand man to Fred Trump Sr., in a baffling boom-time enterprise. They looked at billions of dollars’ worth of properties such as the Drake, the Manhattan House, the Helmsley Hotel and two Bahamian islands—but with some of the world’s best real estate almost in their grasp, they never bought a single trophy property. Read More