A Billionaire New York Landlord Who Doesn't Trumpet His Wealth

  • Friedland owns 20-plus buildings in tony Manhattan district
  • His son did `home run' real estate deal with Bill Ackman

Meet Madison Ave.'s Billionaire Landlord Larry Friedman

The first property Friedland ever bought.

Source: Samuel Longley Bickford family

Pedestrians pass a Roger Vivier store at 750 Madison Avenue in New York.

Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

“They’re the gatekeepers to the best retail strip in the city,” said Jeff Karp, director at New York-based RP Miller Commercial.
The Friedland properties on Madison Avenue, one block east and with fewer tourists than the more famous Fifth Avenue, are worth $1.6 billion before debt, according to the index. Annual rents on the strip between 57th and 72nd streets average $1,633 per square foot, according to CBRE Group Inc. Friedland’s current tenants include shoe store Roger Vivier, handbag-maker Kate Spade, Ralph Lauren, Loro Piana, Dolce & Gabbana and furriers Dennis Basso and J. Mendel.

Hardware Stores

Early in his career, Friedland was vacationing in Puerto Rico and was struck by the number of Banco Popular branches. He said he walked into one and told an employee he thought he had a choice location for the bank in New York. The bank ended up signing a deal for one of Friedland’s Harlem storefronts, and Banco Popular began financing his deals.

Old School

Friedland, center, poses with son William, right, and nephew Rick, left.

Source: Twitter.com/rickfriedland

Phone calls placed by realtors often go unanswered if the Friedlands aren’t interested in what’s on offer, said three realtors who asked not to be named for fear of damaging ties with the company. “if a broker calls me up with a left-field deal that makes no sense, I immediately know to say no,” he said.
While Friedland Properties is a family affair, Larry’s son William partnered with hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman in a 12,850-square-foot retail property on Broadway in Manhattan, according to mortgage documents filed by Morgan Stanley, which underwrote a $65 million loan for the deal in 2013. The property houses a Chase Bank, luggage-maker Tumi and a pharmacy.

“It was his first deal going out on his own,” Ackman said. “He brought us what we thought was a very interesting deal.”

Ackman describes the investment as a “home run.”

In Riverdale

Seven miles north of Madison Avenue in the Bronx borough of New York City, Friedland Properties owns most of the storefronts on Johnson Avenue, a prime shopping strip. It’s where Robert Fanuzzi, former chairman of Riverdale’s community board, said Friedland is pursuing a “Madison Avenue strategy” by allowing storefronts to remain vacant.

“Exorbitant rates were forcing turnover, we were losing some cherished local businesses and new ones weren’t coming in,” Fanuzzi said.

Blue Bay, a diner on Johnson Avenue beloved by Riverdale’s senior-citizen set, was able to negotiate a lower rent with Friedland only after community members pressured the landlord and a state senator became involved by writing a letter to the Friedlands in support of the diner, said Charles Moerdler, a member of the Riverdale community board’s land-use committee. Friedland said the lower rent was purely a business decision.

“My lawyer warned me not to threaten to walk,” said Ken Dubin, owner of the Corner Café, which moved his business after 22 years as a Friedland tenant. “Unless he believes you have some place to go, he’ll call your bluff, show you the door.”

Friedland said he knows people in Riverdale want the stores filled -- “nowhere near as much as I’d like to have them filled.” He said the vacancy rate for his properties is below the national average, “but they’re a little more vociferous” in Riverdale.

Friedland said he wasn’t interested in taking advantage of rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods in other New York City boroughs Brooklyn and Queens.

“I’d rather be an expert in a limited area,” he said. “I don’t want to go out to Idaho to look at something.”

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