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Did you know that there's a "King of New York Retail?" The Observer does, and they say it's Jeff Sutton. Why? Because he owns a ton of stores, including (but far from limited to) American Eagle in Soho, Abercrombie & Fitch and Armani on Fifth Avenue (soon to be a Dolce and Gabbana, so count that too), the West Broadway Ralph Lauren, and Valentino on Madison Avenue. He also just teamed up with mega commercial landlord SL Green for the purchase of 1552 Broadway—to the tune of $136 million, which houses, of all things, the Times Square TGI Friday's.
Whew. Naturally, the Observer wanted to know what he's all about, and report back that he's one of the "most elusive titans in New York real estate." And they sum up his humble beginnings as such: "Mr. Sutton's’ march to masterminding the highest-end retail in New York begins with a humble—dare we say, Al Bundy-like—avocation: discount shoes."
And in the complete opposite approach of Al Bundy, Sutton reached his stature through fortitude and bossiness. The Observer reports that he would take Payless executives out for a drive and have them point to where they wanted their stores to be. Then he'd go up to the tenant and try to buy them out. If that didn't work, he'd try and buy out the landlord, and sometimes, he "made the tenant he was representing his own subtenant."
From there it was just up, up, and away. He used the same gameplan with CVS, but his really big score was getting the American Girl on Fifth Avenue in 2002. And just so you know what the rent is like at some of his stores: It's $20 million for the Times Square American Eagle "for the life of the lease," and the new Dolce & Gabbana will be $16 million for the first year alone.
· Sutton’s Place: Finding the King of New York Retail [New York Observer]