Ten months ago, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, one of the world’s oldest private equity firms, was looking to expand its space at the Seagram Building. Having spent a number of years occupying the entire 18th floor of the iconic building and a portion of the floor above, the firm was on the prowl to take the entire 19th floor.
With four additional tenants sharing space on the floor, complicated negotiations were imminent. Steve Morrows, executive vice president and director of leasing at owner RFR Realty, began devising a solution with his leasing team. The answer involved two lease terminations and two relocations within the building—all at the same time.
“In order to do this deal, which equaled about 36,000 square feet, I had to negotiate five deals to make the one bigger deal,” Mr. Morrows recalled.
Despite the fact that one tenant occupied just 2,000 square feet, if that single tenant had expressed reluctance to accommodate Mr. Morrows’s plan, the entire deal would have collapsed. “We worked very hard and, based on the relationships, we satisfied everyone’s needs,” he said.
Mr. Morrows’s pride in his work at the Seagram Building is evident. Having joined RFR Realty in 2002, the former accountant took a lead role in leasing at the building before being promoted to director of leasing for the entire New York portfolio three years ago.
“I consider myself very lucky to have the privilege to work in this building,” he said. “Without question, it is one of New York’s most important buildings.”
It is a responsibility Mr. Morrows does not take lightly, recognizing the type of high-profile clients who covet space in the building, including private equity funds and family offices. “It’s an asset that’s desired,” he said of the building.
His affinity for the Seagram Building does not overshadow Mr. Morrows’s focus on the remainder of RFR’s portfolio, which includes Lever House across Park Avenue and 17 State Street Downtown. Having closed nearly 300,000 square feet of leasing at Financial District properties and achieving the highest rents in the Downtown market, Mr. Morrows indentifies the latter building as the “premier boutique trophy asset” in Downtown Manhattan.
In light of the firm’s success, Mr. Morrows is quick to recognize the other members of RFR’s in-house leasing team, including A.J. Camhi, Oliver Katcher and Ryan Silverman. Overseeing the entire operation is Aby Rosen, principal at RFR, who, Mr. Morrows contends, possesses the ability to create unique professional environments.
“The team is collectively responsible for our success; it’s not about any one individual,” he said.
Mr. Morrows cites Mr. Rosen’s reputation as an art collector and connoisseur as part of the RFR principal’s real estate vision. Outside of his own personal collection, Mr. Rosen has helped to curate a number of installations at RFR’s properties.
The Lever House Art Collection and a rotating art program at the Seagram Building are just two examples of art displays enjoyed by RFR tenants. Pieces on display have included Jeff Koons’s Balloon Dog sculpture and Urs Fischer’s Untitled, a contemporary sculpture of a teddy bear.