Thursday, October 08, 2009

UK Vogue: Aby Rosen

UK Vogue, GQ, Tatler, November 2009 issues

Photographed by Trujillo-Paumier

Aby Rosen, the New York City real estate mogul and contemporary art collector has just jetted in from Europe where he has been on holidays.

Standing in his art packed office in the prestigious Lever House (he owns the building) Rosen, 49, takes in the Manhattan skyline. There are many spectacular terraces in New York, but somehow standing on his, with sweeping views of Park Avenue and his landmarked Seagram office building, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Roh feels like looking out at his kingdom. New York is clearly this superstar developer’s playground.

Dressed in all black: black polo shirt, black pants and brown suede loafers, his demeanor is both New York aristocrat and billionaire casual Friday. “I don’t like to wear suits unless I have meetings.”

Rosen’s signature silver hair frames a tan, mostly seriously face that only occasionally relaxes in to a smile, on the subjects of deals, his prolific art collection, and his gorgeous psychiatrist and socialite wife, Samantha Boardman.

Yes, there is a recession of course and property has been hit hard. Some developers in this city are falling by the wayside. At Lever House, which is favoured by hedge fund and financial firms, some tenants are crying for rent reductions, but overall Rosen is feeling optimistic.

“Basically I’m very opportunistic. Whenever the market is down we take control of something. I want to do something with office buildings, hotels, retail.” Shoppers do not know where they are right now,” he adds, noting that even he stopped shopping – briefly - but is back. “I get my shopping fix from art and furniture – 20th century stuff.”

He is also shopping for existing hotels. “"We are looking to buy 10 to 12 assets to rework and rebrand them."
Rosen’s offices, his swank Upper East Side townhouse (and another townhouse he is selling for $75million that would be the most expensive Manhattan property sale) and his Hamptons estate are all showcases for art. Lever House is adorned with Warhols and Basquiats. Rosen admires a recent addition, Marc Newson’s Voronoi Shelf made of white Carrerra marble. At last count, he had more than 450 works. “I’ve always loved art. I love photography and have a huge collection of American art from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. I believe you have to have great art in buildings.”

Rosen, who was born in Frankfurt Germany in 1960, moved to New York in 1987 where he apprenticed at a real estate brokerage firm. He co-founded RFR in 1991, which now has an impressive portfolio of hotels, 21 office buildings and nine residential buildings, mostly in New York. He also has projects in Miami and Tel Aviv.

Not bad for a kid who started working for his father’s small real estate business in Frankfurt when he was 16, while he went to law school.

Rosen has many collaborations with long time friend and hotelier turned developer Ian Schrager, including 40 Bond, a swank residential building, plus the chic Gramercy Park Hotel. Rosen met Schrager in 1991. Rosen was a silent partner in the Delano hotel in Miami. Then 15 years on, they decided to work together again. They are planning two hotels in the area of the High Line on the West Side of Manhattan, bordering the Meatpacking district and Chelsea. Rosen is also working on a Shangri-La hotel project on Lexington and 53rd St, but currently everything is on hold. “No one wants to pull the rigger. I think by spring next year, it will all be a lot better.”

In Miami, he has just finished the W South Beach, a stylish 408-unit condo hotel – every room has beach views –and W’s first property in Miami that he says are selling in spite of a soft market.

His next big project is an entertainment centre in Germany, that will be a residential hotel. “We are doing lots of prototype stuff where I can take something and make it into something new, try to replicate it. Something that can be branded.” He also just opened a business hotel in Frankfurt. “But it’s cool. The city didn’t have that.”

Did Rosen ever think he’d be so successful? “I am really ballsy and very determined, he says. “Greed is the challenge. You don’t want to be carried away by ambition. You know in hindsight the projects you ought to be in, and out of.”

So what does Rosen consider crucial for beautiful residential design? “High quality.” In New York this means uptown layouts, in downtown buildings. “Layouts the way Park Avenue and Fifth Avenue used to be – high ceilings and powder rooms, beautiful bathrooms. “If the apartment ages you still want to have classic. You find great architects and designers.”

The most important room? “Every residence must have very beautiful bathrooms, spacious, marble and well designed. I take a bubble bath every day.”