Alex Rovt, the Fertilizer Baron of Manhattan

Alex Rovt made his billions bartering fertilizer and factories in post-Soviet Ukraine. Now he’s buying up Manhattan
Photograph by Jeremy Liebman for Bloomberg Businessweek

It’s a truism of New York real estate that one man’s desperation is another’s opportunity. Joshua Zamir recently found himself on the wrong side of this ruthless equation. In 2007, Zamir’s property investment firm, with backing from the Carlyle Group, bought the old Bankers Trust Building, a 37-story Wall Street landmark with a distinctive pyramidal roof. Then just 28, Zamir took on massive debt to make the $325 million purchase, planning to renovate and lure high-paying tenants. Over the intervening five years, the deal went awry, as office rents failed to rise to meet the crushing burden of the skyscraper’s loans. By this spring, with the skyscraper’s $145 million first mortgage almost due, Zamir was looking for a savior. That’s when he heard from a billionaire named Alex Rovt.

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