As a general principle, the Speyers do not talk to the press. As a business-school student, Jerry had wanted to be a merchant banker. He abandoned finance for real estate, but his preference for the discreet exercise of power remained. Jerry served as chairman of the New York Federal Reserve, currently sits on the boards of Carnegie Hall and MoMA, and is a chair emeritus of Columbia. He was influential in Mayor Bloomberg’s campaign to seek a third term. Jerry’s power, to a large extent, is that many New Yorkers don’t know how powerful he really is.
In this regard, son has emulated father. While names like Trump and Kushner appear regularly in “Page Six,” Rob has preserved a low profile and is already burnishing his civic credentials, chairing the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, for example. (It also helps that Steven Rubenstein, Rob’s publicist and close childhood friend, does an effective job of shielding him from reporters.) In November, Rob married Anne-Cecilie Engell, a beautiful 32-year-old Danish marketing director, in a small family ceremony at the couple’s Soho loft. The wedding was marked only by a brief announcement in the Times. Rob is different from his father in at least one way. Unlike Jerry, who has a paunch from one too many business lunches, Rob maintains a wiry frame from regular yoga workouts (“Defintely no fries,” he said as we ordered lunch). At one contract signing, he pulled out two cans of Red Bull.
By all accounts, Rob and Jerry maintain an intimate working relationship. Their offices on the seventh floor of 50 Rockefeller Center are connected by a conference room. As co-CEOs, they each maintain a veto power and can override the other’s ruling, though they have never done so. “It’s like one can finish the other’s sentence,” says Sandy Lindenbaum, an attorney with Kramer Levin who often represents Tishman Speyer. But Jerry isn’t afraid to remind his son of his station. In 2004, Rob successfully raised $100 million from the New York City employees’ pension fund. In a meeting at Comptroller Bill Thompson’s office after the deal closed, Jerry ribbed Rob on making the deal. “I wouldn’t have agreed to those terms,” Thompson recalled Jerry saying with mock indignation.
Rob almost didn’t follow his father into the family business. He fell into journalism after turning down a Marshall scholarship to study at Oxford upon graduating from Columbia in 1992. He spent a year as a reporter at the New York Observer, then jumped to the Daily News. At the News, Rob worked as a general-assignment reporter, covering crime and politics and whatever other stories editors threw him onto. “He was smart, he was cocky, he was young,” says former metro editor Richard Esposito.
In a newsroom dominated by blue-collar sensibilities, reporters were intrigued, and skeptical, that an heir to one of the city’s great fortunes was slumming with them. “I remember once he came into work with a woolen toggle coat, it looked like something out of Burberry, and we were all giving him shit about it,” recalls Corky Siemaszko, a veteran of the News’ rewrite desk. But Rob distinguished himself as a resourceful reporter (he scored the first post-trial interview with O.J. Simpson by staking out a Florida golf course). By 1995, Rob decided to leave newspapering. It was about this time that the real-estate business was coming out of a deep slumber following the 1991 recession. Rob joined Tishman Speyer in 1995.
For Jerry, Rob’s was a welcome arrival. New York real estate is a business dominated by bloodlines: clans like the LeFraks, Rudins, Dursts, and Trumps. Tishman Speyer was founded, and remains, a tightly controlled family business (Rob’s older sister, Valerie Peltier, is a Tishman Speyer employee; his stepmother, Katherine Farley, is an executive in charge of the firm’s emerging-markets division). The company’s roots date to the nineteenth century, when Julius Tishman first built tenements on the Lower East Side. The enterprise flourished and was inherited by his grandson, Bob Tishman. In 1963, while attending Columbia Business School, Jerry married Bob’s daughter, Lynne Tishman. Three years later, Jerry took a job as an assistant to his father-in-law. Like his father, Rob joined the company at the bottom. At first, he was assigned to the leasing department. By 1998, Rob was given his first break: He was put in charge of a development project at 222 East 41st Street that was difficult because of zoning reasons. According to Sandy Lindenbaum, the lawyer who represented Tishman Speyer in the rezoning effort, “Rob said, ‘I know this is complicated, but I want to go to meetings with you, even if you don’t think you need me at the meeting. I want to go, because I want to learn.’ ”