Miki Naftali grew up in Israel, served in the Israeli army for five years and wanted to see the world. He moved to Los Angeles, where his sister lived, and earned an engineering degree at USC. Little did he know at the time that he was on his way to becoming one of the leading real estate developers in New York City..
Starting as a property manager for a Hollywood producer who dabbled in real estate, Miki moved from managing residential properties to identifying and acquiring his first property in Los Angeles. After his brief stint in the U.S., in the 1990s, he moved back to Israel, where he developed housing for the wave of Russian Jews who were finally allowed to come to Israel and later developed hotels in Tel Aviv and Eilat..
In the early 2000s, seizing an opportunity, Miki relocated to a two-room office in New Jersey to run a New York real estate start-up for an Israeli investor. It wasn’t long before he began to understand New York neighborhoods and the politics of New York real estate, as he started to acquire and develop multiple high-end properties that eventually amounted to an impressive portfolio with $7 billion in value..
“It’s challenging to penetrate the New York market as an outsider because it’s controlled by well-established family offices,” Miki explains. “I worked around the clock because I love taking on challenges and pushing the envelope. I learned that you can push both yourself and your boundaries more than you think you can.”.
His most distinguished undertaking to date, The Plaza Hotel, is a New York historic landmark and one of the world’s most recognizable brands, which he acquired for $675 million..
A carefully planned $450 million additional investment restored The Plaza’s world-famous interior venues but also transformed the landmark into a successful mixed-use property containing a five-star hotel, private residences, celebrated shops and its famous food hall..
“IDB is not like the big bank’s others use in our industry - it’s more personal. They have a sharp focus on our projects and client satisfaction. We’ve had a great relationship for many years.”
As The Plaza project suggests, the privately held Naftali Group has led some of the most significant developments and landmark restorations, with a talent for identifying and acquiring undervalued properties in premier geographic areas with strong potential growth..
After several years of experience in New York, Miki decided to start his own real estate firm, forming the Naftali Group in 2011..
Over the years, Miki has built a portfolio of more than 30 projects, encompassing more than $9 billion in total value across North America, Europe, Asia and Israel. This includes 18 luxury condominium buildings in New York City with more than 1,300 residential units, as well as luxury rental buildings and mixed-use properties..
Today, Miki is now ranked number 18 on the list of the top 100 Most Powerful People in New York Real Estate by the New York Observer. “I am passionate about designing and creating each building’s unique story and characteristics,” Miki says. “I love what I do and have always been very determined, working on numerous deals at a time.”.
These days he has also welcomed his two daughters into the business – Danielle, who is both the manager of marketing and design while attending NYU’s real estate development program, and Loren, a recent college graduate, who is working in asset management before moving on to law school later this year..
“This business is not just about numbers,” Miki says. “You have to have a vision for the properties and the neighborhoods, and focus on building value. The numbers come last”.
Having negotiated with billionaires, princes and prime ministers, Miki says “ego is a big factor that leads many to fail because they’re not willing to do the groundwork and learn from brokers and people in the neighborhood. It’s about asking the right questions and challenging yourself to execute your vision to the best of your ability.”.
With the Naftali Group’s extensive experience in the debt capital markets, the firm also assesses and structures debt quickly on attractive terms. The firm focuses on development opportunities that produce superior risk-adjusted returns. Miki appreciates his partners and lenders, many of whom have worked with him over the years. IDB is a case in point..
“Reputation is key,” Miki says. “With partners like IDB, they help us bring our vision to life, correctly and without undue risks.” No one knows this balancing act better than Miki Naftali – and with the track record to prove it.