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The Tangled Tale Behind the Empire State Building's IPO

Small investors cling to their stakes in the Empire State Building
Estimated value of the Empire State Building: $2.5 billion
Estimated value of the Empire State Building: $2.5 billionEmpire State Building: Paul Goguen/Bloomberg; Bills: Ian Frantic/StockImage/Getty Images

Al Weiner’s stake in the Empire State Building came to him by way of his grandfather’s death in a 1950 train crash in Queens, N.Y. Weiner’s grandmother sued the Long Island Rail Road, and her lawyer was Lawrence Wien, a family friend. The money from the settlement made her a natural person to call when Wien reached out to friends and business associates in the early 1960s to buy what was then the world’s tallest skyscraper. The family and more than 2,000 others purchased shares of the Empire State Building under a syndication orchestrated by Wien and his partner, real estate investor Harry Helmsley.

Albert Weinberg, grandfather of Al Weiner