The Comedian at Work

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JBR Gural 02 300x200 The Comedian at Work

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The lesson imparted to a young Eric Gural sounded suspiciously counterintuitive, not least of all because of the esteemed source of the directive.

“‘Your job is not to make a fortune,'” Mr. Gural recalls his grandfather, the late legendary real estate mogul Aaron Gural, telling him in 1991, shortly after he began working at what was then the firm Newmark & Company. “‘It’s your job not to lose a building.'”

The advice-basically, “don’t take risks on investments I made”-left an impression on Mr. Gural, who during a 20-year career in real estate has come to adapt many of the old-school methods of his relatives, the brothers Leon and Maurice Spear included.

Indeed, in an industry that often rewards risky investments and lightening-quick property flips, Mr. Gural and cousin Brian Steinwurtzel have opted for a modest business model anchored by the belief that holding on to property is the wise bet. The philosophy has allowed the duo to manage a growing portfolio of 42 buildings and more than 9 million feet with few of the disruptions that have beset some competitors.

“We were built in terms of what our grandfather taught us, to buy when it’s not competitive, when it’s harder for people to buy-not to buy through the rise,” said Mr. Gural, now an executive managing director at Newmark Knight Frank. “He told us to buy during the fall. So we’ve stuck with the model he set up because it works.”

Seeing that the time has arrived, Messrs. Gural and Steinwurtzel most recently chose to acquire a stake in 515 Madison Avenue, a deal that was recast numerous times over the past two years until, in December, the Gural and Hemmerdinger families purchased a majority interest in the 340,000-square-foot, 42-story tower.

“That’s a building that my grandfather actually got a lease on from his uncle in 1963, so we’re very happy,” said Mr. Gural, 42, who was named among the “40 under 40” real estate professionals eight years ago in the pages of Real Estate New York.

Skewing closer to the leasing deals that they are most responsible for, the cousins also inked a net lease at 420 West 45th Street, a building originally used as a Tootsie Roll factory. Inked in December, the deal will allow service employee union DC-1701 to occupy a 63,000-square-foot building now being vacated by longtime media tenant IMG.

That transaction came on the wings of another closely watched leasing deal that allowed clothing retailer the Gap to occupy 265,000 square feet at 40 Worth Street. The fresh deal was not only the biggest in terms of square feet for Newmark, but also for New York City last year, according to news reports.

“Forty Worth, in its history, has always been a building that has had a lot of state and city agencies,” said Mr. Gural of the departments of Transportation and Health, both of which are expected to vacate the property later this year, when the Gap is scheduled to relocate its offices there.

“It was kind of fortunate that those leases expired two years ago and we were nice enough to say, ‘It’s O.K. if you want to stick around,’ although we might’ve been better off getting the space in 2007 as opposed to 2009.”

 

MR. GURAL WAS RAISED on real estate. As a boy, he watched his dad, Newmark Knight Frank chairman Jeffrey Gural, debate his grandfather, and before long the pair were lassoing the younger Gural into those discussions.