VITAL STATS NAME: Ben Shaoul AGE: 36 TITLE AND COMPANY:
Pres., Magnum Real Estate Group HOMETOWN:
Great Neck, N.Y. CURRENTLY LIVING IN:
West Village & Bridgehampton BUILDING BLOCKS How many buildings does Magnum own? I’m a little superstitious about telling people what we own, but we’ve bought and sold well over 100 properties, [primarily in] Manhattan — everything from a 10-unit walk-up to a $200 million development project. How did you get into real estate? I started working as an intern for a real estate management company, and that kind of morphed into managing a property for my father, Abraham. He had a small property at 813 Broadway that he bought for his business — he was and still is an importer of French antiques. I renovated the building for him and I made him a few bucks. I bought my first property, on Mott Street, when I was close to 20 years old. What development projects do you have in the pipeline? We just purchased an old theater building at 100 Avenue A in the East Village, which we’re going to develop into a [residential] project — about 60 apartments — with a large retail component. We’re in design and development for a project at First Avenue and 24th Street, the former ICD [Institute for Career Development] building, [which is going to be either rental or dormitory].
THE BOTTOM LINE How did the recession impact your business? We were able to take on a lot of projects and capitalize on the recession, and we’re very fortunate for that. [But] we obviously had issues with some of our loans and some of our projects. We were a big Lehman Brothers borrower, so when Lehman went under, we had to deal with some of the issues that created for us. I would not give up the experience [of the recession] for anything in the world. Doing business and making money was much easier in 2007, when the industry was booming. It takes a market like 2009 to test those relationships and notions, and I think we emerged stronger as a company as a result. You have a lot of properties in the East Village; for example, you recently starting leasing Bloom62 at 542 East 5th Street. What appeals to you about the area? It’s funny; we have just as many projects in other neighborhoods as the East Village, but for some reason people keep connecting us with the East Village — which is fine, because we love it here. Because people talk so much about our involvement in the East Village, deals kind of float our way.
48 August 2013 www.TheRealDeal.com
You’ve been frequently criticized in the press for construction problems in your buildings and for allegedly mistreating your tenants. How do you respond to that? They’re ridiculous. We don’t mistreat tenants. We borrow from every bank. Banks don’t lend money to, and capital partners don’t do deals with, landlords who mistreat tenants. I think sometimes tenants misconstrue change as mistreatment. We’ve never been convicted of, or accused directly of, doing anything wrong [involving] tenants, ever. We have a stellar track record of how we treat tenants. I think change leads to feelings being hurt sometimes, or people having differences of opinion. But to say that we mistreat someone is just false. What about allegations that you’ve improperly displaced rent-stabilized tenants from your buildings? Show me something that proves I’ve done something wrong. Never. We treat rent-stabilized tenants the same as our free-market tenants. If anything, we spend more dollars on operating our properties than any other landlord.
LANDLORD LIFE What are the challenges of being a landlord in the city? The changing scope of the business. It changes every single year. I used to buy properties from bricks, and now I’m buying them from financial analysis of what it’s going to be worth today and what it’s going to be worth tomorrow. The city has been leaning on landlords every year to pay increased taxes. It’s been a huge challenge — it’s very hard to know what our taxes are going to be next year. Do you have a family? About four months ago, on March 1, I got married [to Megan Walsh Shaoul] at City Hall. We have twins, Henry and Piper, who are two and a half, almost three. And [our] son Mayer was born on July 12, 2012. What are the challenges of balancing work and fatherhood? Challenges are endless. I work from 5 in the morning till 11 at night. But I recognize that the time I have with my children I will never be able to recapture, and that I can’t miss moments in their lives. … I’m the dad who runs home and gives them a bath before they go to bed, then goes back to the office. By Hayley Kaplan
PHOTOGRAPH FOR THE REAL DEAL BY DEREK ZAHEDI