It’s become clear that Aby Rosen does not like Wall Street.
The first clue was his disdain for a beloved Picasso wall hanging inside The Four Seasons Restaurant.
The second was his fierce disdain for the Four Seasons Restaurant in its entirety — which he is kicking out of his Midtown Manhattan building.
The third clue, his decision to close down Brasserie — the restaurant below The Four Seasons — made his dislike for Wall Street was obvious.
Aby Rosen is the millionaire real estate developer who owns The Seagram Building. Inside that building is Wall Street’s most prized power lunch spot, The Four Seasons Restaurant. It’s been open since 1959.
It will, however, be forced to move elsewhere before its lease is up in 2016. Rosen is ratcheting up the sweetheart $US20 per square foot deal Four Seasons owners Julian Niccolini and Alex von Bidder have been getting for decades to $US105 per square foot.
Regulars are shocked. Yes, bankers understand why one would want tenants to pay market place for space — but… it’s their space.
Besides, once the restaurant and its owners is gone, it seems clear Rosen wants to change the very air of the place.
“You want to have the guy coming to the Four Seasons who has the ripped jeans and a T-shirt equally as much as you want the guy with the Tom Ford suit,” Rosen told The New Yorker recently. “Because the guy with the jeans, I promise you, has a lot more money.”
Who’s the guy in T-shirt? Well, that’s unclear.
The guy in the Tom Ford suit, though? Well, that’s obvious. That’s you, Wall Street.
On any given afternoon or evening you’ll find Wall Street’s titans dining there. It was a favourite of late-legendary dealmaker Jimmy Lee of JP Morgan. You’ll also see his former boss, CEO Jamie Dimon, there every once in a while. Roger Altman CEO of Evercore; Pete Peterson, a founder of Blackstone — the list could go on forever.
And they don’t really do ripped jeans and T-shirts.
Modern vs. Contemporary
Wall Street should have seen it coming. In 2014 Rosen took down Le Tricorne, a Picasso wall hanging that had been hanging in the Four Seasons for 55 years. Art experts told the contemporary collector that if it was taken down it might break.
So Rosen took it down and gave it to the New York Historical Society, so it could hang next to water colours of ducks by John Audubon.
Rosen then claimed the work wasn’t real anyway.
“It was supposed to go somewhere else. It ended up there because nobody wanted to piss away the $US50,000 they paid for it,” he told the New York Post.
More likely, though — much like a Tom Ford suit — it was simply not his taste. He likes things a bit edgier.
Remember, this is the man who angered his Westchester neighbours by placing 33 foot tall Damien Hirst statue called The Virgin Mother in his front yard. It depicts a pregnant woman with her stomach skin peeled back to expose the foetus inside her.
First the hanging, then the hangout
Then, last year, rumours started leaking that The Four Seasons Restaurant might have trouble renewing its lease. For months von Bidder and Niccolini refused to comment on the matter. Moving seemed unthinkable. The restaurant’s interior has been land marked since 1989. At that time, the City of New York had only bestowed that honour on one other establishment.
Rosen tried to upend that situation by asking the landmarks commission to allow him to make changes to the space. Last month, they handed him a resounding “absolutely not.”
From the New York Times:
Phyllis Lambert, 88 — a daughter of Samuel Bronfman, the founder of the Seagram Company, who died in 1971 and helped create the building — said RFR’s proposed changes would “do irreparable damage to the two great rooms.”
Edgar Bronfman Jr., 60, a former chief executive at the Seagram Company, called the Seagram Building “one the greatest Modernist buildings ever built” and said the restaurant was “central to the greatness.”
Right after that, Rosen announced that The Four Seasons would have to find a new home. The Four Seasons, for its part, announced that it would be moving downtown to a location, as yet, unknown.
It will have company — familiar company at that. Brasserie, another business-set power breakfast/lunch spot located under The Four Seasons is also getting the boot from Rosen, according to the New York Post.
“It’s not like Aby’s doing an Indian or a Chinese restaurant,” Rosen told The New Yorker. (Yes, he speaks in the third person.)
Rosen has not responded to requests for comment for this story.