Saving well-known brand names became a specialty for Howard Lorber, a one-time stockbroker who plunged into leverage buyouts in the go-go 1980s and 90s. Starting with Nathan’s Famous, the venerable Coney Island hot dog business, he turned the languishing brand into a thriving franchise and licensing enterprise, which now includes 380 locations and brand extensions into french fries, mustard and pickles, as well as hot dogs. Now, as the company’s executive chairman, he looks forward to celebrating Nathan’s 100th birthday in the summer of 2016, when the company plans to sell hot dogs at the Coney Island location for their original price: 5 cents.
After being part of a group that took another old brand, Western Union, through bankruptcy, he eventually teamed up with Dottie Herman, to acquire Douglas Elliman, one of the great names in New York real estate, which also had been struggling. As chairman of Douglas Elliman™, Howard oversees one of the nation’s largest real estate brokerage firms in the U.S., with over $18 billion in annual sales. Those revenues and the business acumen that Howard brought with him have transformed the company into a high-end, industry powerhouse once again. “I think we are the top real estate company, period,” he says.
With more than 6,000 agents, the company has more than 80 offices in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island (including the Hamptons and North Fork), Westchester, as well as South Florida, California, Greenwich, Connecticut, and Aspen. And through a strategic partnership with Knight Frank Residential, Douglas Elliman’s powerful network extends to 55 countries across six continents.
Playing an active role in the company, Howard prides himself on his ability to attract and retain talented people. “I have been good at finding the right people throughout my career, including a few who are game changers, which is lucky,” Howard says. “Finding money is simple; finding great people is difficult.”
“What I like about IDB is that they listen. It’s like having your own private bank. I first went to IDB because people I knew, tough business people, loved IDB. So I knew they were good before I even started working with them.”
In addition to his role at Douglas Elliman, Howard is the president and chief executive officer of Vector Group Ltd.™ and its wholly owned subsidiary, New Valley LLC, the parent company of Douglas Elliman. He has actively managed Vector Group and New Valley’s diversified interests since 1994.
Reflecting on his success, he says the key is to enjoy what you do. “Because I love what I do, I don’t need a vacation to have fun. To me, that is success.”
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