The Real Deal

How this former bad boy is making a massive real estate comeback

Hana R. Alberts, Sep 30, 2015

Michael Shvo, 42, rose to fame working 20-hour days as a broker, staging elaborate stunts — like enlisting John Legend to sing at the launch of Financial District building 20 Pine St. to lure would-be condo buyers. Once known as NYC’s real estate bad boy, he took a hiatus around 2008. It seemed, impossibly, that Shvo had disappeared from New York City’s round-the-clock real estate scene. 

In fact, he was off collecting modern art, but is now back as a developer — and bigger than ever. For the last two years, he’s been building up his collection of prime properties, with grand plans ahead for six projects in the works that total $4 billion in development. It’s Shvotime!

3,000 — The number of dollars Shvo, a 24-year-old immigrant from Tel Aviv, had in his pocket when he arrived in New York City in 1995. Humble beginnings, to say the least, but he’s more than made up for it.

When he led the top-selling broker group at Elliman in 2003, he raked in $300 million in sales. In 2006, he paid $6.5 million for a 68th-floor apartment with Central Park views in the Time Warner Center.

getty station

25 — Sheep by the late French artist François-Xavier Lalanne that dotted Astroturf hills at the former Getty gas station on 24th Street and 10th Avenue, which Shvo transformed into a temporary art installation in 2013 while he finalized plans for the site. He paid $23.5 million, outbidding 30 other buyers and setting a price record for West Chelsea.

A 12-story, eight-unit condo called The Getty, designed by leather-loving architect Peter Marino, will rise where taxi drivers once filled their tanks. It’s slated for completion in 2016.

 The number of hours Shvo says it took to secure a $500 million deal to buy the upper floors of the iconic Crown Building on 57th Street and Fifth Avenue, which he did with Russian billionaire Vladislav Doronin of luxury hotel brand Amanresorts.

“I think it’s the best intersection in America,” he says. “It was an opportunity to own one of the best buildings in the world.”

He and his team are working on a conversion plan, since it’s currently used as offices.

“There are plenty of rumors out there,” Shvo acquiesces — and one of them is that the gold-and-bronze cupola would make a mighty fine (and expensive) penthouse.

55  Carnegie Hall and Metropolitan Opera performances Shvo attends each year. He’s a classically trained pianist — and so is Rafael Vinoly, the Uruguayan architect who is designing Shvo’s 88-story condo tower on Greenwich Street, near the World Trade Center site. They attend about half of those shows together.

crown building

He’s also working with Pritzker Prize-winner Renzo Piano of Whitney Museum fame on another condo building just west of Soho, which will be the tallest tower in the area at 280 feet.

He’s also in contract to buy another Soho property as well as a private island in the Bahamas.

“We do exotic stuff,” he says.

10 — Times Shvo flies to different parts of Greece each year to see Antonis Remos, his favorite singer, a famous pop star who croons about life and love in the wee hours of the morning — concerts typically run from 1 to 6 a.m.

vintage andy warhol poster

“I know every single word to his songs, but I don’t know a word of Greek,” Shvo says. “You don’t have to understand the words to understand the emotions. … It’s one of these fun things I do for myself. It’s the only time I can go ahead and disconnect from the world.”

480 — The number of works in Shvo’s art collection, which he curates along with his wife, Seren Ceylan, a former model from Turkey.

Pieces by his favorites — which include Pop and modern darlings like Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Alexander Calder, Frank Stella, Morris Louis and Tom Wesselmann — line the walls of his apartment, his Hamptons home and his Midtown office, which includes an 8,000-square-foot terrace decked out with sculptures.