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Beyond The Bio: 16 Questions With Greystone CEO Steve Rosenberg

This series profiles men and women in commercial real estate who have transformed our neighborhoods and reshaped our cities, businesses and lifestyles. 

Thirty years ago, Greystone & Co. CEO Steve Rosenberg founded his company entirely from scratch, starting with a telephone on top of a “desk” that was no more than an unpainted wooden door on two rusty file cabinets, located in the back of a friend’s music store.

Steve Rosenberg (third from the left), with his sons Donny, Jonathan, Mordecai, Judah and Zac, taken in August at Mordecai’s wedding.

In the decades that followed, Rosenberg oversaw the expansion of the New York-based company into commercial real estate lending, investment and advisory services. Now Greystone has more than 30 offices nationwide.

The company reached two milestones last year: closing on its first debt fund ($750M) and completing the industry's first CRE collateralized loan obligation to be backed entirely by senior housing ($300M).

Bisnow: How do you describe your job to people who are not in the industry?

Rosenberg: I'm in the loan business, making loans to owners of multifamily rental properties and owners of healthcare properties.

Bisnow: If you weren’t in commercial real estate, what would you do?

Rosenberg: Identify some market that's considered boring and is undervalued, then figure out how to reposition or repurpose without taking too much risk, and raise the capital to start purchasing. Initially with low debt, to make those first mistakes and not feel the heavy debt burden. There's always time for more leverage.

Steve Rosenberg with his parents at his bar mitzvah

Bisnow: What is the worst job you ever had? 

Rosenberg: Selling Cokes to the audience at the circus.

Bisnow: What was your first big deal? 

Rosenberg: A $50M debt workout of an Atlanta multifamily property. I still feel indebted to the owners for giving me that opportunity.

Bisnow: What deal do you consider to be your biggest failure? 

Rosenberg: A rapid expansion of the firm after we made a windfall on a specific investment. I failed to put the right balance and controls in place and ended up shutting down almost all of those new initiatives. I didn’t know or invest the time to know what I didn’t know.

Bisnow: If you could change one thing about the commercial real estate industry, what would it be?

Rosenberg: Openness to doing things, everything, differently — but that's also happening. The current players will either change significantly, or be out of business or irrelevant, pretty soon.

Bisnow: What is your biggest pet peeve? 

Rosenberg: People who take themselves too seriously.

Greystone & Co. CEO Steve Rosenberg

Bisnow: Who is your greatest mentor? 

Rosenberg: My parents, and one or two individuals who demonstrate unconditional love for all. I have learned that love is really the only thing that matters.

Bisnow: What is the best and worst professional advice you've ever gotten?

Rosenberg: I'll take a pass on that.

Bisnow: What is your greatest extravagance? 

Rosenberg: Flying privately when necessary.

Bisnow: What is your favorite restaurant in the world? 

Rosenberg: None. I really prefer to eat at home.

Bisnow: If you could sit down with President Donald Trump, what would you say? 

Rosenberg: I would say, ”Really?”

Bisnow: What's the biggest risk you have ever taken?

Rosenberg: Starting Greystone with absolutely nothing — just two rusty filing cabinets and a door from Home Depot as a desk. It was a leap of faith and I’m so happy in what we’ve accomplished in 30 years.

Bisnow: What is your favorite place to visit in your hometown? 

Rosenberg: I grew up in Miami, so the beach is my favorite part of my hometown.

Bisnow: What keeps you up at night? 

Rosenberg: Nothing.

Bisnow: Outside of your work, what are you most passionate about?

Rosenberg: My family — without a doubt.