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Mort Zuckerman : Former Montrealer Real Estate Mogul

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Mort Zuckerman

Who: Real estate developer Mortimer B. Zuckerman is the chairman of Boston Properties, one of the largest real estate developers in the United States, and the owner of U.S. News & World Report and the New York Daily News.

 

Backstory: The son of a Montreal tobacco and candy wholesaler who passed away when Zuckerman was 17, the future real estate mogul headed off to college at McGill at age 16, then moved to the U.S. in the late '50s to attend business school at Wharton and law school at Harvard. After briefly enrolling in a PhD program, he turned to real estate, taking a job at a Boston-based development firm called Cabot, Cabot & Forbes at a starting salary $8,750. Zuckerman soon became one of the firm's young stars; he proved himself to be a pretty brash operator a few years later when he struck out on his own and teamed up with Ed Linde to form Boston Properties: Zuckerman immediately filed suit against his former employer over his ownership interest in a property he developed and ended up collecting a $5 million, which he used to make some of his first real estate deals.

 

In the early '70s, Zuckerman and Linde began developing office buildings on the outskirts of Boston; they later moved into Boston proper and expanded to other cities during the '80s. By the middle part of the decade, Boston Properties had assembled 50 properties in its portfolio, 10 million square feet of real estate in Washington, Boston, New York, and San Francisco. It was during the company's growth spurt that Zuckerman started making his first investments in media, acquiring a small local newspaper chain in New England in the mid-'70s, The Atlantic in 1980, and U.S. News & World Report four years later. He purchased the Daily News in 1992.

 

Of note: Zuckerman continues to serve as chairman of Boston Properties, and today the publicly-traded real-estate investment trust controls more than 100 commercial properties across the country. In New York, Boston Property's portfolio includes 599 Lexington (where Zuckerman's own 18th floor office is located) and 7 Times Square, which was built in 2004.

 

But while there's little question Zuckerman has been enormously successful in the real estate game, his media track record is mixed. The Daily News squeezes out a small profit, but its battle with the Post has been bloody and painful, and U.S. News has been losing money for years and never managed to close the gap with larger rivals like Time and Newsweek. Zuckerman did extraordinarily well with his purchase of Fast Company—he unloaded it at the height of the dotcom boom for $350 million—but other media forays haven't panned out. In 2003, Zuckerman put in a bid for New York, ultimately losing out to Bruce Wasserstein; his investment in Radar lost him a good sum of money; and more recently, his effort to purchase Newsday never came to fruition when Cablevision's Jim Dolan snagged it instead.

 

Keeping score: Zuckerman is worth $2.8 billion according to Forbes.

 

On the job: Zuckerman isn't the sort of developer who spends his days on construction sites wearing a hard hat. Owning media outlets generates the sort of political and social currency that gives him entrée to the Washington political establishment and lands him an occasional seat on Sunday morning political talk shows. And he actively exercises his political influence as the "editor-in-chief" of U.S. News and owner of the News. While he isn't exactly sitting at his desk proofreading copy, he has a hand in the editorial direction of the magazine, which, most recently, he's used to take a series of (often cheap) shots at President Obama.

 

Grudge: With the Daily News and the Post at each other's throats, Zuckerman has been a bitter rival of Rupert Murdoch for years. The Daily News questions the Post's circulation numbers. The Post chides "the Daily Snooze" for every misspelling and factual error. The News refers to Page Six as "Page Fix." The Post questions the methodology used to generate U.S. News's college rankings. And on and on. (The one thing they don't do is go after each other personally. Several years ago, PR guru Howard Rubenstein negotiated a pact between the two moguls to keep their private lives out of their respective papers.) He also isn't a fan of Bernie Madoff. After the Ponzi schemer was busted in 2009, Zuckerman revealed his personal foundation lost $25 million that had been entrusted to Madoff.

 

Pet causes: Zuckerman gives to a variety of medical causes and Jewish charitable groups. In 2006, he announced his largest gift yet when he handed a $100 million check to Memorial Sloan-Kettering. His connection to the institution is personal: His daughter, Abigail, suffered from a childhood cancer that was treated at MSK.

 

Personal: A notorious bachelor—the Washington Post once described him as having "dated more women than Italy has had governments"—Zuckerman's been connected to Nora Ephron, Gloria Steinem, Arianna Huffington, Diane von Furstenberg, Patricia Duff, and Marisa Berenson. In 1996, he tied the knot with art curator Marla Prather. (Justice Stephen Breyer officiated.) In 1997, they had a daughter, Abigail, before separating in 2000 and divorcing in 2001. In December of 2008, Zuckerman had a second daughter named Renee Esther. The identity of the mother, though, was not announced. It's believed the child was conceived via a surrogate.

 

Habitat: Zuckerman resides in a triplex penthouse apartment at 950 Fifth Avenue decorated with paintings by Picasso, Rothko, and Matisse and sculptures by Frank Stella. (His neighbor back in the day was disgraced Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski.) Zuckerman also has a four-acre spread on Lily Pond Lane in East Hampton and a home in Aspen. Zuckerman has a helicopter to ferry him to the Hamptons. For longer trips, he relies on a $60 million, 18-seat Gulfstream G550 or a $35 million Falcon 900 that seats 14 people.

 

True story: A film director pal, Irwin Winkler, cast him in the 1999 film, At First Sight. The role? Billionaire mogul Zuckerman played a homeless man.

 

 

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Vital Stats

 

Full Name: Mortimer Benjamin Zuckerman

Date of Birth: 06/04/1937

Place of Birth:

High School:

Undergrad: McGill University

Graduate: McGill University Law School, Wharton, Harvard Law School

Residence(s): Upper East Side, Aspen, CO East Hampton, NY

Filed Under: Business, Media, Real Estate

http://gawker.com/5646808/

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Maybe Mr. Zuckerman could be persuaded to donate a small portion of his $2.8 billion fortune to McGill. As far as I can tell, he has never given anything to the school. Instead, he has made substantial donations to New York University and Cornell University.

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