Zuckerman Unbound

Mort Zuckerman, the jack of New York trades who, as chairman of Boston Properties, is today closing on the purchase of the GM Building, gave yet another rendition of his gloomy-as-hell take on the U.S. economy to a crowd of brokers at a Real Estate Board of New York luncheon at the Sheraton on Seventh Avenue.

But it wasn’t without a sizeable dose of humor, and not without touching on subjects as varied as President Bush’s fiscal policy, the brilliance of TV gab pioneer John McLaughlin, and how practicing law is like lousy sex.

First, the medicinal:

“This is the most difficult time we’ve had in 70 years,” said Mr. Zuckerman, as hundreds of real estate types divided their attention between his prognostications and the shoveling of breaded chicken breast into their maws.
“There are an estimated nine million homes whose mortgages exceed the value of the homes, and no one knows what will happen,” he warned. “It brings to mind what Adam said to Eve in the Garden of Eden: ‘Stand back. I don’t know how big this is going to be.’”


Despite his decidedly sober view of this country’s "once-in-a-century" economic decline, Mr. Zuckerman was bullish on Manhattan, demonstrated in no small measure by the fact that, as he spoke, Boston Properties and partners were closing on the $2.8 billion purchase of the GM Building:

“New York, principally Manhattan, stands a little bit isolated, because Manhattan is part of the global economy. If you look at the Apple Store at the GM Building – something that I have done, believe it or not, over the past few months – you will find that [the majority] of the customers are foreigners… We will fare better than almost any other city in the country, in my judgment.”

But enough with the dooms-daying. Thanks to some terrifically irrelevant questions in the Q&A session, Mr. Zuckerman also got to opine on national politics, the practice of law, and more.

On national politics:

“The overwhelming issue [in politics] is the economy,” he said. “Bush’s disapproval ratings exceed Richard Nixon’s in the last week of office …It is almost as likely a contingent as you can come to that a Democrat will win and Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States.”

"… We have, without question, the most asinine fiscal policy I have ever seen,” he continued. “We are draining funds out of this country. At some point this will have to end.”

"… Just so we know, I actually supported George Bush for his second term, on the general grounds that I knew John Kerry.”

On local politics:

"I would like to see Mike Bloomberg continue in office,” Mr. Zuckerman said, referring to talk that the mayor might push through a charter revision allowing him to run for a third term.

On the McLaughlin Group, where he’s a regular:

"John McLaughlin is a brilliant, very forceful … individual,” Mr. Zuckerman said. “The show covers a spectrum of America,” he added, recounting a recent appearance on the show, after which people at the Four Seasons – and a homeless guy on the street – told him they’d seen him on TV.

On practicing law:

As he said he told a bar association, “Law practice is the exact opposite of sex. Even when it’s good, it’s lousy.”

Zuckerman Unbound