tv The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations Bloomberg March 29, 2020 3:00am-3:30am EDT
david: ultimately, you built a development that became the biggest development in new york at that time, which is a timewarner development. stephen: i was motivated. you know, like most people, you want to do something impactful in life. david: you decided to build something even bigger, which became the biggest real estate development in the history of our country, hudson yards. stephen: hudson yards, by building a live-work-play environment right in the middle of new york, you know, there was a real need for it. david: how come your team is not in the super bowl? [laughter] stephen: that is a good question. hey, you know. >> will you fix your tie, please? david: people wouldn't recognize me if my tie was fixed, but ok. [laughter] just leave it this way. all right.
i don't consider myself a journalist. nobody else would consider myself a journalist. i began to take on the life of being an interviewer, even though i have a day job of running a private equity firm. how do you define leadership? what is it that makes somebody tick? many people in the investment world have bought sports teams. i'm not one of them, but i do admire others who have fulfilled their ambitions to get involved in sports. one of them is steve ross. he bought the miami dolphins a number of years ago, redeveloped the stadium area, and this year, he was the host for the super bowl. it's an incredible diversion from all of the other successful things he has done. almost everything he touches works out quite well. his business interests, his real estate interests, and now his
sports interests. one of the early signers of the giving pledge, he has given away hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars for education, among other major purposes. i really admire him as an investor, but also as a humanitarian. you are going to be the host of the super bowl this weekend. so is it hard to get to be the host? does anybody -- did they just call you up and say, how about doing this or is it harder than that? stephen: it is very competitive. i think every team in every city really wants the super bowl. it is such a great economic development tool, you know, for the city and the impact that it has, it is fantastic. i think the fans, they love coming to miami, because we have the best weather this type of year all the time. it is the policy of the nfl to reward teams who build new stadiums to get at least one super bowl. but i think, when you -- this is the 11th time the super bowl, which is the most of any city, that the super bowl has been in miami.
david: ok. so how come your team is not in the super bowl? [laughter] stephen: that is a good question. you know? hey, you know? it is not as easy as you think. david: ok, so let me ask about this. when will the dolphins be in the super bowl? anytime soon? and i read that tom brady might be a free agent. i don't know whether you are allowed to talk about that as an owner. stephen: i mean, i heard he was going to be a free agent, but i would say, one, we are not allowed to talk to him until sometime in march. you know, we are a team that is building. i don't know why he would want to come to the dolphins. he is probably one of the fiercest competitors there is. we are at the stage where the dolphins is trying to really build the team for the future and doing it through the draft. david: when it was announced the super bowl was coming here, did a lot of friends of yours say, by the way, i would like some tickets?
how do you get tickets for this? stephen: well, i mean, yes, i have been inundated with requests for tickets. really, the nfl takes over the whole stadium and they control all the ticketing. in fact, i have to buy my own box. you have to know, the stadium that i own, i have to buy my own box. david: do you get a discount or not? stephen: not really. david: not really. stephen: i am one of 32. david: when you are an owner of an nfl team, you get together very often with owners. what are those meetings like with nfl owners? are there small egos in those rooms and very nice people and no complaining or anything? [laughter] stephen: they're not what you would expect. i think the nfl realizes you have 32 egos, and that, you know, you divide and conquer. so, i think the nfl really controls the meetings. they are not what you are -- finding all of these individuals standing up and stating all of these different reasonings. i think they are pretty calm,
actually. david: so let's talk about it. when the team was owned by huizenga, you bought it in 2008 or so. stephen: yeah, 2008. david: 2008, and you bought 49% with an obligation to buy another 51% or so. stephen: you had a buy-sell on the other 51%. david: you bought it the subsequent year and you paid roughly $1.1 billion or whatever it was. something like that. stephen: $1.1 billion. david: so is it worth $1.1 billion today? stephen: no. david: it is worth more. stephen: a lot more. david: would you ever sell? stephen: no. david: never going to sell? stephen: no. david: ok. and were you a football player when you were younger? stephen: i played high school football. david: really? stephen: yes. david: what position were you? stephen: tackle. david: ok, there are a lot of people who are owners of nfl teams who are jewish. are there any jewish football players actually? are there more owners or more players who are jewish?
stephen: actually, we have a jewish quarterback, josh rosen. david: wow, ok. so there are some jewish players. stephen: i wish he was a better quarterback. [laughter] maybe i would be playing today. [laughter] david: did you ever think you would be an nfl player? stephen: not a quarterback. [laughter] david: no, ok. let's talk about how you came to be an owner, because it is not that easy to buy a team. it costs a fair amount of money. so let's talk about your background. you grew up, originally, in the detroit area? stephen: yes. david: your father was an inventor? stephen: right. david: what is an inventor? is that a real job? you just tinker with things? stephen: well, i mean, he was always tinkering, always in the office trying to do something. david: is that a steady income when you are tinkering? stephen: not really. he did well. he married my mother. she had a wealthy father. david: and what did your mother do? stephen: she was just a housewife. david: you grew up in the detroit area and you went to ninth grade there, but your family moved to miami for high school. stephen: right.
david: why did they move to miami? stephen: my grandfather bought a hotel and my father's inventing days were over, and he had to make a living, and he went to help manage the hotel. a real mom and pop thing. david: what was the name of the hotel? stephen: the martinique. david: you are living in miami beach and you went to high school in miami? stephen: miami beach. david: you did, i assume, reasonably well in high school? stephen: not really, but anyway. david: you didn't do -- but you were a football player. you did not have time. stephen: we are not supposed to -- david: originally, you went to the university of florida? stephen: i went there for the first year then i transferred to the university of michigan. david: you like the cold weather better? why did you do that? stephen: it was always a dream to go to university of michigan, and i did not have the grades to get in right out of high school, so i was able to transfer from, you know, florida up to michigan. and it had a real impact in my life, and i think that was one of the reasons why i have been so active with the university of michigan. david: you have given the university of michigan about $400 million? stephen: maybe a little more.
david: more than $400 million. ok. has university of florida ever said to you, you were here for one year. why don't you give us something? [laughter] stephen: i don't think they know who i am. [laughter] david: really? ok. stephen: don't tell them, either. [laughter] david: i think they know who you are. you go to the university of michigan and you decide to be a lawyer. you go to wayne state law school. right? stephen: right. david: did you want to be a lawyer? stephen: not really. david: why did you go? because you were jewish, you had to go to law school or medical school? jason: -- hadhen: at that time, we vietnam, we had a draft. david: ok. stephen: so i decided -- i stayed in the army, in school, until i was 26. david: after wayne state law school, you went to nyu to get a masters in tax? stephen: yes. david: and then you went back to detroit, and you worked at an accounting firm? stephen: i was a tax lawyer. david: tax lawyer. and then you went to new york? in investment banking? stephen: that is where i ended up working for the investment banking firm and thinking i would go back to detroit eventually, but, you know, it is
like, i came home to a place i had never been really. once you are in new york, it is an exciting place for young people that really, you know, want to succeed. david: ok. so you work at bear stearns, and then you got fired. stephen: right. david: did you get fired because you just were smarter than everybody else, and they did not like smart people? what do you think the reason was? stephen: that sounds good. [laughter] david: all right, ok. how hard is it to call your mother up and say, i have got a law degree, a masters in tax, and i have been fired? is that hard? stephen: i needed money. i wanted to stay in new york. you know, i did not know what i would do. i did not think i was really -- would be able to get a job. i did not want to go through that process again. i kind of thought, at that point in time, you know, what do i know and where the opportunities are, and where do i have my interest and passion? and kind of wrote out, thought of the process and wrote out a business plan. i started, you know, my own company. david: your mother lent you
$10,000? stephen: i had to live. david: did you ever pay it back? stephen: yes, more or less. david: why didn't she -- she did not want equity in your company? if she had equity, she would be pretty well. stephen: i told you i had a good mother. [laughter] david: so nobody negotiated for equity for her. she just got the money back. stephen: right. david: you started a company called related. right? stephen: yes. david: where did you get that name from? stephen: when i started looking at real estate and there are so many aspects of how it is related. we had related development, related management, and it is a name that made sense from that standpoint. you know, it was a bad enough name that nobody had ever used it before. david: all right, so you have the name, related, and originally you are syndicating real estate deals. you go to wealthy people and you say, would you like to invest in this real estate project or something like that? stephen: in those days, we had a lot more business cycles. as you know. it was either boom or bust in real estate. so i saw the idea that you had to have a steady stream of income, and then you could
invest those profits into development, because that is really where you can really make large sums of money. so it was like we had this financial service arm, which was the syndication side. at that point, it was selling tax losses to wealthy investors. we had a different tax law at that point in time. using those profits to plow it back into development and since i did not know anything about development at all, i put -- and i saw the opportunities in affordable housing, i did strictly for the first six or seven years of my career, all i did was affordable housing. david: to people who are not real estate developers, what does a developer really do? stephen: i mean, it is the one who finds the land, has the concept, hires the architect, works through the plans, makes sure the building gets built on budget, on time. and then manages it when it is completed and assumes all of
those responsibilities. david: ok, so you became one of the larger developers of low income housing or subsidized housing in the united states over a period of time. stephen: just before i started the company, lyndon johnson had these great society programs that really set up the government to provide the funds for affordable housing. and then, they had the section 8 programs that the government initiated after. so, it was a question of taking the government subsidies and applying them across the country. and i saw, when i read it, this is too good to be true. and we really, i think, i started the company developing in 1972, and by 1980, we had built something close to 8000 units. david: let's suppose i want to buy an apartment in hudson yards. what kind of -- what would it cost to buy an apartment there? stephen: now is a good time to buy, because the real estate market in new york is soft. you know, so --
housing, low income housing, affordable housing, and then ultimately, you built a development that became the biggest development in new york, at that time, which was the timewarner development center right along columbus circle south of central park. how did you get the right to do that, and why was that such a big deal? stephen: i was motivated. you know, like most people, you want to do something impactful in life. you know, and it is not a question of money. you are not really working because of money. everybody can make money, but you want to do something impactful and that is meaningful and challenging. david: all right, so timewarner became a big development. it had the oriental, it had apartment buildings, lots of office space. timewarner had its offices there and you lived there as well. stephen: correct. david: so ultimately, you decided to build something even bigger, which became the biggest real estate development in the history of our country, called hudson yards.
so for people who don't live in new york or don't visit new york, what is the big deal about hudson yards? stephen: hudson yards -- what was happening in new york, over 60% of the buildings were over 60 years old in new york. they were obsolete, and new york was growing. and the hottest area of new york was a place called chelsea, which was down there. and i saw the idea when hudson yards came about through creating a live-work-play environment. people were looking for sustainable developments. and hudson yards, by building a live-work-play environment right in the middle of new york, there was a real need for it. we were able to attract corporations because they were looking for talent. chelsea was really the hottest part of the city where the young people are. david: so you got the right from new york city to build this in around 2008. stephen: yes. david: and that is what time the recession was going on. was it scary to get it right then? stephen: we had just went under contract in 2008, before lehman
and the crisis really started, if you will call it that. before we signed the letter of intent and had put up some money, before we went hard, we had negotiated some points of the deal that we would not have to start the project until certain events happened. in other words, that the office -- there would be an office market, an availability of money, and that the condo market would be able to absorb some units. david: for hudson yards, the total square footage, is it like 16 million square feet? something like that? stephen: it started out -- the city of hudson yards, it was a request for proposals was roughly for about 13 million square feet. we went out, and we acquired land around it so our
development today would be over 20 million square feet. david: how much was the total purchase price? how much did you and the lenders and all of the investors have to put into this to make it work? stephen: well i mean, right now, we are in it for $15 million to $18 million. i mean billion. it will probably be $25 billion to $30 billion. david: $25 billion to $30 billion. stephen: $25 billion to $30 billion. david: ok. and you are going to make a profit? stephen: i would hope. [laughter] david: no project in the united states history, commercial project, has ever been that expensive. even rockefeller center many years ago was modest compared to this. is that right? stephen: if you look at the square footage, which is the way you measure the size of something, it is the largest private development in the united states. david: why didn't you consider calling it the ross center? you did not want to put your name on it? stephen: no. [laughs] david: no. you have a sculpture there that is very famous. some people think it is great. some people think it is not so great. stephen: who does not like it? david: well, a couple architecture critics that i read.
stephen: "the new york times" does not like anything we do. david: explain what it is. why is it so controversial? you picked the architect. you saw him from something he designed at the olympics. he designed this sculpture. what is this sculpture? stephen: we call it the vessel. it is really a 150-foot high series of steps, if you will, that you can walk around. we want to create the new heart of new york. i looked at it. you had to have some type of iconic structure. and if you look at new york, and i think, you know, you take rockefeller center, which i look as being the heart of the city, and every tourist, especially during christmas, everybody goes to rockefeller center. i wanted some type of structure that would be a 365-day christmas tree. so i, you know, i looked for it and i found this designer. thomas heatherwick. i selected it.
i did not know what the cost was. everybody thought i was nuts, but i think -- david: what did it cost? stephen: i thought it would cost maybe $75 million, and it cost probably about $160 million. [laughter] david: you convinced a lot of famous companies, blackrock, kkr, among others, to move there. do you have to personally go to larry fink at blackrock and say, move from where you are to hudson yards? stephen: i was involved in selling all of that. the appeal was, corporations today survive by getting talent. they saw they were in an obsolete space. they knew this is where their talent wanted to live. and so, i think when we sold them, they could see what we were creating, and we were very fortunate to get probably the top companies in each field in new york. so it wasn't any one industry. we hit across all industries. without building it and opening it, i love saying it, you get
the highest rents in new york today. and it is probably the area that is most in demand. david: you don't mean to say the highest rents. you mean the rents that are most appropriate for what you are giving -- stephen: for that space we built, yes. david: let's suppose i want to buy an apartment in hudson yards. what would it cost to buy an apartment there? stephen: now is a good time to buy, because the real estate market in new york is soft. you know, so -- david: any deals i could get? stephen: i got a deal for you, trust me. stop the interview right now. let's make a deal. [laughter] david: if somebody's watching this and says, i want to be like steve ross, i want to be a successful real estate developer, what is the skill set? stephen: i mean, i think to be successful in anything, you have to have a passion for what you are doing. ♪
david: let's talk about your philanthropy for a moment. you have signed the giving pledge with bill gates and warren buffett. why did you do that? why did you agree to give away half of your net worth? what do your children say about that? stephen: i don't think they have anything to complain about. let's start there. [laughter] but yes, i am giving away most of my net worth. you know, i have taken care of my children and i just believe in giving back. some people look at it, their families, dynastic link, and i believe i was very fortunate, and i want to give it back and doing something that is significant. i think i kind of grew up with that idea. you know? i don't think -- you know, it is a feeling of not feeling entitled. david: what are your passionate causes in philanthropy? stephen: you want to do things that are impactful.
you don't just want to just give it away. i have certain interests that really, i'm very involved in. first of all, you start with education and making the cities and places where you live better. but today, to me, the biggest area of concern that i have is the environment, climate. i think that, you know, that impacts everybody. any disease or anything you might give to, when you talk about survival, there is nothing more impactful than that. david: if somebody is watching this or somebody is in the audience now and says, i want to be like steve ross, i want to be a successful real estate developer. what is the skill set? is it smart, hard-working, luck, money from your mother, what is the thing that makes it possible? stephen: all of the above. [laughter] david: all of those. ok. stephen: i think to be successful in anything, you have to have a passion for what you are doing. and you know, if you have that passion, i mean, it was great, i
looked at affordable housing from a standpoint, you are doing well when you are doing good at the same time and using that as a basis. and today, you know, affordable housing is still probably the greatest need that we have in america and will continue to be one of the great things. but, i think, to be successful, as you know in building your company, it was a question of you have an idea and you expand upon it, and you connect the dots as you grow. and you never stop working. david: when you built your company, related, like my company, carlisle, your company, at some point you say, somebody else can run it day to day. you might reach a certain age where you say somebody else can run it. i am not the co-ceo any longer, i am the coexecutive chairman of my firm. are you the ceo still? stephen: no, i am just the chairman. you only grow companies by really surrounding yourself with great people, with like-minded ideas and thoughts and doing things.
i think, you know, i attribute most of my success, if not all of my success, to really the people that i am surrounding myself with. they are my partners. i look at them in working together and executing is probably the most exciting thing in life. david: so did your parents live to see your success? stephen: partially. i mean -- david: did they ever say, you should have worked harder? you should have stayed as a lawyer? did they ever say that? stephen: my mother never could describe what i did, so i was always a lawyer. [laughter] eternal lawyer. david: you had this incredible career, you have become a very wealthy person, a happy family, you on a football team, any -- own a football team, any regrets about what you have done with your life? stephen: i regret we are not playing in the super bowl this weekend here in miami. but no. really, i mean, i really love what i do. i still have great passion for it. david: look, a very successful career. thank you for taking the time today. i know you are very busy this weekend because everybody here wants your time. everybody wants a ticket.
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