David Goldstein, the Skyline Changer
Jotham Sederstrom March 1, 2011, 9:14 a.m.
It was for Burberry, the iconic clothier most famous for its butterscotch-plaid scarves, that the Studley broker David Goldstein made his most memorable mark on New York’s fashion industry.
During a relationship that stretches back to 2007, Burberry’s executives called upon Mr. Goldstein to devise a plan for the London-based company to exit its lease at 1350 Avenue of the Americas years early and consolidate elsewhere. Far beyond relocating showroom and office space to 444 Madison Avenue, Mr. Goldstein made the fashion world take notice when he ably negotiated for the owners of the Madison Avenue building to buy out the remaining four years on Burberry’s old lease while also securing signage rights.
To be sure, when the previous home of New York magazine turned on its three-sided illuminated signs atop the building, in March 2009, not only had Burberry made a grand mark on the city, but so, too, had Mr. Goldstein. “Skyline-changing transactions have a little extra meaning,” he said. “And knowing you were part of something that transformed the city-even if it’s only a wee bit-can be very satisfying, for us and for our clients.”
But in a career spanning more than 20 years, Mr. Goldstein’s successes in the fashion industry are myriad. From J. Crew and Tiffany & Co. to London Fog and Coach, the Studley executive vice president has inked deals for many of the boldest names in the business.
Unlike law firms, which typically only lease office space, fashion companies, said Mr. Goldstein, require a variety of real estate uses, from office space to showrooms and party rooms.
“I was intrigued by the business model and the people I was interacting with, and, at a certain point, decided to stick with it,” said Mr. Goldstein, who, besides his fashion clients, has also worked with legal and financial firms, including Fortune 500 companies, for a grand total of 10 million square feet in deals. So far.
Among his most storied deals may be his transaction in 2004 for Ann Taylor. Whereas the Burberry deal was merely for 75,000 square feet, Mr. Goldstein’s assignment for Ann Taylor demanded a space requirement of 300,000 feet. In an engagement that began in 1997 and involved smaller assignments along the way, the huge transaction on behalf of Ann Taylor grew out of the firm’s need to relocate and expand from previous offices. In the end, the broker secured 300,000 square feet at the Times Square Tower following the timely collapse of Arthur Anderson.
“They were all very intrigued at the opportunity to be in this brand-new building so they could have the latest state-of-the-art technology,” said Mr. Goldstein, who since 1995 has ranked among Studley’s top-producing brokers. “But at the same time still be entrenched in the fashion district.”
MR. GOLDSTRIN WAS BORN in southwest Brooklyn, near what was then the heavily Italian and Jewish neighborhood of Bensonhurst, but he moved to Long Island as a child.
He majored in business administration and minored in real estate at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Supplementing his class work, he learned his trade from a mall developer in Boulder, from whom he accepted an intensive internship. Within the confines of that city’s Pearl Street Mall, a pedestrian expanse surrounded by cobblestone streets, Mr. Goldstein attended lease meetings, hung signs and, in general, learned the business.
“The developer was a local guy, a fast operator,” he recalled. “He was a bit of a wheeler-dealer, but the work got me excited because I was sitting in on very fascinating meetings and learning on the go, but realizing that this was a fast-paced, challenging, intriguing business that had a lot of different moving pieces to it.”
Following his graduation, the broker moved back to New York in 1989, and soon took a sales position at Andover Real Estate, a small firm in Manhattan. While still at Andover, Mr. Goldstein was charged with working within the Flatiron district, a neighborhood that was then on the cusp of a big revival.
After months of canvassing, the young broker pitched an agency assignment at 170 Fifth Avenue, now a residential building near the corner of 22nd Street and Fifth Avenue. Going up against far more established brokers at larger firms, Mr. Goldstein was told by the building’s owner that he had finished in second place, losing to a seasoned agent. The loss convinced Mr. Goldstein to make a change.
“The day that I came in second-I’ll never forget this-I walked back to the office at 28th and Fifth, where Andover was located, and I resigned that day,” recalled Mr. Goldstein, who now lives on the Upper East Side with his wife and two young daughters. “And right then I started making the calls.”
Among the first brokers he called was Mitch Steir, who had recently come to Studley as a senior agent. After briefly meeting with Mr. Steir, now the firm’s chief executive, the unemployed Mr. Goldstein was told to canvass a building on Madison Avenue as a training exercise.
Mr. Goldstein’s attempt at canvassing the building, while accompanied by a junior Studley broker tasked with monitoring his efforts, quickly spiraled into an embarrassing comedy of errors. To be sure, it was an errant elevator car that nearly derailed his job interview. “We go to the top floor, and I come off the elevator and I literally slip because the elevator didn’t line up properly with the floor.
“So my boot hits the space, I go flying forward and I land flat on my face,” he added. “My papers go flying. And this is my first experience with this guy that I’m trying to convince to hire me.”
The accident, however, likely did not faze Mr. Steir, who hired Mr. Goldstein later that day. To judge by the broker’s track record, it was the right decision. After all, this year he will mark his 21st year at the firm. Not surprisingly, it’s a Cal Ripken-like benchmark that he takes seriously.
“I’ve been at Studley since 1990 and that is extremely rare in the business,” Mr. Goldstein said of the single-firm longevity. “It’s the exception.”