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Prudential Douglas Elliman Makes record $13 billion

Published by The New York Sun on 2006-02-16

Howard Lorber and Dorothy Herman will observe the third anniversary of their partnership at Prudential Douglas Elliman in a few weeks. But they started celebrating yesterday when record sales figures for 2005 were rolled out.

"It's always good to be lucky," Mr. Lorber, the real-estate behemoth's chairman, said. "We had the market on our side. Dottie and I are a good team. She's a warm person, the soul of the company. I help watch the financial end of it. Our revenues have doubled since our acquisition in 2003."

"Dottie" is the moniker by which Ms. Herman is widely known in the industry. And the revenues that Mr. Lorber referred to totaled $13 billion last year.

Those revenues and the business acumen that Mr. Lorber and Ms. Herman brought to Prudential Douglas Elliman have transformed what was once a lethargic company into what real-estate analysts say is a powerhouse with unprecedented economic might and industry influence.

"Their energy and focus are extraordinary," Jonathan Miller, founder and president of Miller Samuel, said of the chairman and the CEO. Mr. Miller's company, which studies market trends, often produces reports for Prudential Douglas Elliman.

Mr. Lorber said that a lot of his own energy and focus has been directed toward hiring talented brokers. The company has 1,450 brokers in the city, and 3,300 in its 76 offices in the tri-state region and Florida.

Does that - along with its $13 billion sales in 2005 - make Prudential Douglas Elliman the biggest player in town?

"I believe that we are the market leader, that we have the largest market share in New York," Mr. Lorber said. "Our high-end sales are unprecedented. Our new-development marketing group is doing extremely well. We have more than $5 billion worth of projects in the pipeline for the next couple of years."

His most prominent rival, Pamela Liebman, president and CEO of The Corcoran Group, would undoubtedly have a thing or two to say had she been publicly willing to assess Mr. Lorber's assertions. But Ms. Liebman chose not to respond to messages from The New York Sun.

That did not surprise Mr. Lorber.

"Our record speaks for itself," he said.

The record is burnished by a woman who's known as arguably the most relentless - and, of course, the most successful - residential broker in America.

"That would be Dolly," said Ms. Herman, referring to Dolly Lenz, the Prudential Douglas Elliman vice chairman who specializes in new development and investments. "Dolly is remarkable."

On that point there's agreement among Ms. Lenz's supporters as well as critics. They have watched her make huge sales of luxury apartments to celebrities and CEO's year after year. In 2004, Ms. Lenz made $6 million; last year, she said yesterday, she took in nearly $9 million.

But when asked about her performance, Ms. Lenz was quick to credit her chief patron, Mr. Lorber, and her close friend, Ms. Herman.

"It's really Howard and Dottie - and not me," she said, after a lunch that she had at The Four Seasons with them. "Dottie made the company grow, and brought heart to real-estate. Howard brought the 'big-business' approach to Prudential. Real estate used to be mainly a mom-and-pop industry. Howard changed it."

Ms. Lenz noted that Mr. Lorber's vast network of contacts and extensive business experience benefited Prudential Douglas Elliman. One of his companies, The Vector Group, has the controlling interest in Prudential. Mr. Lorber is also CEO of Nathan's Famous Inc., the legendary producer of foods, including hot dogs. And he's board chairman of Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services.

"Howard is incomparable as a deal maker - he's a total deal junkie," Ms. Lenz said. "He's fiercely passionate and competitive. His passion is clear in everything he does."

Mr. Lorber and Ms. Herman attribute similar passion to Ms. Lenz. Yesterday, she received a coveted award for being the company's top producer in 2005, an honor that she's bagged for many years.

Another honoree was Faith Hope Consolo, who heads the company's retail sales. Ms. Consolo said that she expects Prudential Douglas Elliman to be the leading retail sales and leasing company in real-estate within a few years.

"We all bring different skill sets to the company," she said. "The best partners are those who have different skills and can work together. Our common thread is the passion we share."

Ms. Consolo was recruited to Prudential Douglas Elliman by Ms. Herman. Last night, as she was attending a soiree at the Friar's Club, Ms. Herman reflected on her first three years at the company.

"Howard and I were introduced by my Long Island attorney, Brian Ziegler," she said. "I was doing well out on the island, but I wanted to be in the city. I had this vision. Howard helped me to realize it. In our time together at Prudential, we've all come to appreciate one another's strengths and aspirations - and we've learned to band together for the company's success.

"I have learned that your company is only as good as the people you work with," Ms. Herman said. "That's why I'm proud to be able to say that this is a company that cares about its people. That's why I work 24/7. I believe we've created the right pathway to the future."

Pranay Gupte,
Senior Writer and Global-Affairs Columnist

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