“Entertaining is a crucial part of how I establish relationships and negotiate deals. Sharing a meal – and opening up about family, sports and other non-industry-related things – allows me to put myself in the other person’s shoes, and this generally leads to an easier resolution.
As most of my mornings begin with exercise – normally a SoulCycle class – I tend to skip breakfast meetings and opt for lunches or dinners with clients, investors and colleagues. I’ll often start a meeting at our Lower Manhattan office, before heading to lunch somewhere nearby, such as The Palm, where the superb service and straightforward menu – great steaks and chopped salads – allow everyone to focus on the business in hand. During negotiations with 21st Century Fox over its new Bjarke Ingels-designed headquarters at the World Trade Center, there were so many people involved in discussions that we weren’t able to work through the issues. I took its attorney to lunch here, and between the two of us we were able to get the term sheet signed.
Another favourite lunch spot is Da Claudio. This is my go-to for entertaining anyone with a bit of creative edge. The atmosphere is downtown cool meets the Financial District, and the clientele tends to be younger and hipper than in places like Bouley, where I’ll take investors who prefer a more formal dining experience. Nobu and Locanda Verde are also excellent for working lunches, with a lively atmosphere and delicious food. But time is short, so no lunch lasts more than an hour and most are under 45 minutes.
Dinners, however, are generally longer, more relaxed occasions when people are prepared to let their guard down. At Zuma, where I bring real-estate colleagues as well as friends and family, it is an almost festive occasion. It’s just a fabulous restaurant with a great vibe and robata menu. I also host a series of dinners during my annual ski trip for 120 industry people to Vail, Colorado. At Matsuhisa I might select an eight-course menu and sake tasting so we can socialise in a collegial atmosphere. And one of the best venues for breaking down barriers is Bol, an upscale bowling alley that has excellent spicy honey-glazed ribs and tuna tartare. This is not a business trip per se, but a lot of business gets done.
One place I will have breakfast meetings is Asia; in fact, I’ll book three back to back. Hotels like the Shangri-La China World in Beijing and the Four Seasons in Hong Kong do a buffet-style breakfast, so it’s easy to fit several meetings into a short time.
At lunch or dinner in China, I follow my host’s lead. If I am the most senior executive, I’m served first, and have been faced with a chicken’s head and moving things as a show of respect. Of course, one has to consume everything so as not to seem discourteous. Lunches at the Jockey Club in Beijing are often accompanied by shots of baijiu, a strong spirit that tastes like tequila. When a colleague raises a glass to you, you must take the shot. I've had lunches that have included 20 shots, making the rest of the day something of a write-off.
A particularly memorable meal was not in a restaurant, but at the home of Isadore Sharp, founder of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts – with whom we have worked for 10 years and whose new downtown location we are currently developing. The perfectly orchestrated dinner brought us even closer as partners and friends.
Sometimes we have lunch in our conference room, where no one eats until a deal is hammered out. But this can backfire as I have a fast metabolism and get hungry very quickly.”