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Malkin (the other one) still plays it conservatively.

In the early 1980's, as the New York real estate market wheezed, Peter L. Malkin's wife asked for a favor: Would it be possible, she asked, if he worked from their home in Connecticut on Fridays? He sheepishly agreed. This, of course, was before T-3 lines, and his colleagues at W&M Properties couldn't imagine what he could be getting accomplished on all those "wasted" Fridays.

Then the story broke: He had been hunting Nazis.

Actually, no. But at about that time the identity of the Mossad agent who had captured the fugitive Gestapo chief Adolf Eichmann in 1960 was finally released: His name was Peter Z. Malkin. The coincidence earned him some cheeky pats on the back around the office ("So that's what you've been up to...".) Then an obviously misinformed reporter from Reuters called with an offer: $1 million for his story.

"I said, 'You've got it!'"

Yes, the early 80's were a peculiar time, both for people named Peter Malkin and for people in real estate, the veteran landlord told his audience at May 9's B'nai B'rith real estate luncheon. And as the 2000 boom fizzles, Malkin said the lessons of previous downturns will serve his firm well.

Malkin's late father-in-law, Larry Wien, was his partner in Wien & Malkin. Wien had started in real estate in the 1930's, after his father had instilled in him a strong distrust of the stock market.

"His father needed something tangible, something real. So he began buying second mortgages, and soon found himself owning the properties. He asked Larry to take care of them, which he did. He went to the first mortgagers and told them he could run the properties better than they could, and that he would work for free. And he did, and paid off every mortgage from the proceeds.

"He liked to say he never lost a property during the Depression."

Having survived the 1930's and 40's in one piece, he began buying. First it was the Lincoln Building, across from Grand Central Terminal, in 1954, then 200 Fifth Avenue and 501 Seventh Avenue, then a share of the Empire State Building in 1961.

"And it was all financed conservatively," Malkin said. "The Empire State Building has no financing on it today. While that may not be very opportunistic, it is comforting."

Wien & Malkin formed W&M Properties to acquire and operate properties outside the city. By the 1980's, they owned 15 hotels and more than 15,000 apartment units.

"We went through the 'depression' of the late 1980's and early 90's and started buying. It was a good time for my partner, Tony -- I remember when I used to refer to him merely as, 'My son, Tony' -- to join us."

And it was about this time that Peter started taking those Fridays off that led to so much speculation. And it was about when W&M added to their landlord duties by getting involved in development. And for whatever trouble his surname was giving him, his firm's reputation was cementing. Things were good.

"Whatever I built, Chase appraised and loaned me 75 percent of their assessed value, which always seemed to be more than it cost me to build it," he recalled. "We built in Westchester and moved into Stamford, Conn. just as that market collapsed. That's when I learned it was better to be a property's third owner. Let somebody build it and somebody else forclose on it, then we'll buy it from them."

But the future is what the luncheon crowd came for. They want to know what the Dickens may be next.

"Everyone asked me where we are going. I'll say that we've been fortunate so far, and though the market has slowed, existing rates are so high that we can afford to compete on rates and concessions," he said. "We've been averaging 40 to 50% increases on lease renewals. If that were to fall to 20% I guess it wouldn't be so bad. And we pay the brokers 100% commissions upon execution of leases. We want to encourage brokers to bring us their clients and we work closely with them."
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Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Interview
Date:May 16, 2001
Previous Article:Schmerzler comes home to lead retail.
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