Apr. 29, 2016 - Commercial Observer

Henry & Justin Elghanayan as #88 on Commercial Observer’s Power 100 List

Shortly I took over at Commercial Observer last fall, I got the first email on this subject: “When are you taking submissions for the Power 100?”

There have been many, many emails in the six months since asking the exact same thing.

Brokers, developers and some of the richest and most influential landlords in the city (strike that—in the world) have been fascinated with Commercial Observer’s yearly ranking of the top dogs of the business. The small army of publicists employed by these power brokers tirelessly fought for higher ground for their jefe. When emails went unanswered (sometimes for as long as an hour) phone calls were made. Voicemails were left. The words “I don’t mean to be a pest…” (or variations thereof) were employed on numerous occasions.

“You can’t include so-and-so without also including his managing principal,” one publicist declared.

Other publicists seethed over the fact that their boss should have to share space with their other boss.

We will admit list making is more art than science. Some of our decisions will strike the men and women profiled here—and, more importantly, our readers—as arbitrary, but we were determined to be thoughtful and deliberate. All of Commercial Observer’s writers, editors and contributors weighed in and gave their reasons why certain names should rise and others should sink.

Students of the Power 100 will note that the vast majority of the changes to the list involve one mega-name switching places with another. There is a core of 70 or 80 people in the real estate business whose names will always be on any list that makes an attempt at being comprehensive. Some of the machers who slipped a notch or two will no doubt feel slighted. But, honestly, that’s not where the real excitement of a list like this lies. The great pleasure is seeing who jumped up in a big way, and why.

Larry Silverstein was 41st last year. This year, he’s No. 3. Part of the reason is because of the unbelievable explosion of Downtown Manhattan, which Mr. Silverstein has helped create.

Alicia Glen charged her way into the top 20… and why not? True, Gov. Andrew Cuomo arguably has much more control over the fate of the state than she—but we think Ms. Glen is the politician real estate professionals would be wisest to keep an eye on.

Likewise, the No. 22 spot—a spot high enough any respectable real estate billionaire should be comfy with—we gave to Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey, two newbies who had never been on the Power 100 before. But with WeWork (which was valued last year at $5 billion) a profound new force has emerged in commercial real estate, and we are obliged to pay tribute.

We might get challenged on some of the entries on our list.

Danny Meyer, for instance, is neither a real estate broker nor a major landlord. But it would be difficult to name someone who has been a shrewder forecaster of a neighborhood’s success. In fact, Mr. Meyer might be the ultimate victim of his own predictive prowess. He took a gamble back in 1985 when he opened Union Square Café and the neighborhood was still dumpy. This year he was forced out of the celebrated space because the rent was too damn high. But that’s the nature of the beast that is called real estate.

These are the names of those who have tamed it.—Max Gross