Michael Goldman, Studley’s ‘Older Man on the Bus’
Tom Acitelli June 21, 2011, 10:03 a.m.
Indeed, in his 25 years as a broker, Mr. Goldman has faithfully commuted by bus from his home in Passaic County, N.J., to his Park Avenue office at Studley. In his twice-daily commute, he has seen passengers and drivers come and go, even as his destination has stayed the same.
While it may not sound like much, his dedication to the bus line, to his career at Studley and to his New Jersey home speaks volumes about the commercial agent’s steady and dependable nature.
“I have become that older guy on the bus,” said Mr. Goldman, who as a 52-year-old executive managing director is hardly the old codger he makes himself out to be. But it works for him. “I remain not affected after 25 years of commuting on the same bus—every morning and every evening—without exception.”
Such dependability has paid off. Over the past several months alone, Mr. Goldman has been spinning leasing gold from corporate clients as varied as an investment firm, a legal practice and what he called a media programming company. All told, the agent estimated that he has sewn up a “few hundred thousand square feet” of deals over the course of the past year.
Earlier this month, Mr. Goldman inked the second of two recent transactions for the New Jersey-based law practice Lowenstein Sandler at 1251 Avenue of the Americas, a Class A building he described as a “Class A-plus property.” The 41,900-square-foot expansion, he said, piggybacked on another renewal transaction he negotiated for the firm back in September. All told, the group now presides over roughly 101,000 square feet of contiguous office space.
“For them, it was a great opportunity to stay in a first-class building and be contiguous,” Mr. Goldman said. “And everything worked out nicely. We had to create opportunity for this firm to find the space and like anything else it took a while, but it was a great effort.”
In the same time frame, the tenant rep has been negotiating a deal for a major media content programmer now in the market for what he claims will be several hundred thousand square feet of headquarters space in either Lower Manhattan or the vicinity of midtown. The assignment, which began in 2010, is expected to close by later this year.
“Needless to say, there’s a lot of work that goes into an assignment of this size, both from market perspective and infrastructure perspective,” said Mr. Goldman, who declined to divulge details about the company other than to say the firm is currently occupying space in midtown. “It has been challenging, but we’re doing very well and it’s moving along nicely.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Goldman inked a 10-year deal in May for Royalty Pharma, the 15-year-old, New York biopharmaceutical conglomerate that renewed its lease for 12,000 feet on the 33rd floor of 110 East 59th Street.
The 10-year lease extension, he said, was nearly as important a deal as his larger transactions simply because of a size and scope that he insists is far more common than the rare whale searching for a 100,000-square-foot headquarters space in a down market.
“I like to deal with even these smaller transactions because they’re still very active,” said Mr. Goldman. “Even in down cycles there are a lot of deals.”
Mr. Goldman has also quietly carved out a niche with foreign banks angling to establish a New York City base. In the past five years, the tenant agent has brokered deals for the State Bank of India, the People’s Bank of China, the Union Bank of Finland and the Kookmin Bank of South Korea, he said.
In another deal that ties those banks together, the broker also finalized a transaction three years ago with the Office of the Comptroller of Currency, the federal agency that monitors both national banks and the U.S. branches and conduits of all foreign banks. The agency signed a lease for a 90,000-square-foot headquarters in midtown in 2008. “The skill set is really just knowing the market extremely, extremely well—knowing it inside and out,” said Mr. Goldman, who estimates that he has represented 65 percent of all foreign banks that have leased office space over the past 25 years in Manhattan. “It’s all about knowing what space is not on the market and what will be on the market three years from now.”
IT WAS DURING ONE of his earliest deals with a foreign bank, however, that Mr. Goldman learned an important lesson about the unpredictability of the real estate business. Indeed, while working in 1991 on a 25,000-square-feet deal on behalf of the Commercial Bank of Kuwait at a midtown building, Mr. Goldman discovered one morning that the Arab nation had been invaded by Iraqi forces, which would result in military intervention by U.S.-led forces in the Persian Gulf War.
“I woke up to find out that there was no country, thus there was no deal,” Mr. Goldman recalled. “I went home for 48 hours to shake off my wounds and to this day it’s built such character because that day I learned a deal is never truly a deal until it’s completely signed and returned back to you.”
The ordeal also reinforced the agent’s thirst for knowledge. During his daily commute, in fact, he makes a point of reading several newspapers—in particular the financial and foreign business headlines. Never again will he be caught off guard by events like the one that killed his Kuwait deal.
“It all comes with the bus,” said Mr. Goldman. “I read everything in the morning going in. I read, read, read and then read more on the way back.”