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Why go into law to begin with?

The decision to go to law school was back in 1975. When we got out of school, the conditions were not unlike what we’re seeing now, which is high unemployment, low job growth and the job offers weren’t there, so a lot of us just went to law, med or business school. I went to law school, but back then they didn’t diagnose ADD like they do now. I had such trouble spending four or five hours on legal briefs that, finally, a friend of mine who had jumped right away, instead of [into] a law firm, into the sales brokerage business … started really making some big money in 1979, 1980, 1981. So I finally asked my dad-who was the chairman at Con Edison at the time and had put me through law school-if he minded if I became a real estate broker. Of course, he said, ‘Great,’ and that was the beginning of finding a career in real estate.

 

Were you involved in any other business ventures early on in your career?

Daun and I did a couple interesting things along the way when we did get successful early on in the 1980s. We started a large limousine company in New York for what were supposed to be tax reasons, to shelter our income. It turned into 20 stretches with colored TVs, and it soon attracted a very bad element; and these guys started breaking our windshields because they wanted to be our quote-unquote partner, and we didn’t want it. And then they started threatening my dad, so he picked up the phone to his pal Bob Morgenthau and they put a wire on me-a couple of his racket squad guys-and we nailed the guys; but I was shaking like a leaf. I sold the company at like a million-dollar loss.

At the same time, we bought a Broadway play. It was the third play that Mark Bramble had written. He wrote 42nd Street, he wrote Barnum and he wrote The Three Musketeers. We bought The Three Musketeers at the same time as the limousine company and went out to raise $5 million through backers; and realized that this was not where we were supposed to be, so we sold the play for $25,000. They raised the $5 million and the show went on to Broadway and the play closed that night. My wife said, ‘Now, Peter, get back to real estate, which you do much better than Broadway.’

jsederstrom@observer.com

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