Beyond The Bio: 16 Questions With Kushner President Laurent Morali
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When Laurent Morali, a French native and veteran of Wall Street, joined the Kushner Cos. more than a decade ago, it might not have been impossible to predict he would one day be the company's president, but no one would have guessed how.
Morali leads the firm, along with Charles Kushner, after former CEO Jared Kushner accepted the position of senior adviser to President Donald Trump, his father-in-law.
Kushner has been under scrutiny ever since over conflict-of-interest concerns — the company no longer courts foreign wealth funds, a common source of real estate finance, to avoid the appearance of a conflict — and Morali's job is to steer the company through it all.
After selling 666 Fifth Ave. to Brookfield for $1.1B last year, Kushner has started to ramp up acquisitions, buying a billion-dollar portfolio of Mid-Atlantic apartments and planning its first-ever development in Miami, which Bisnow first reported.
Bisnow recently caught up with Morali, an avid guitar player and father, who got his start in the French banking industry in the 1990s before moving to New York City.
Bisnow: How do you describe your job to people who are not in the industry?
Laurent Morali: I liken my job to an air traffic controller; I have a lot of planes up in the air that I need to help land safely, while simultaneously preparing the next planes for takeoff.
Bisnow: If you weren’t in commercial real estate, what would you do?
Morali: Professional guitar player and composer as well as vintage guitar trading.
Bisnow: What is the worst job you ever had?
Morali: When I was a student, I worked at a supermarket and had to wake up at 4 a.m. every day to make sure shelves were stocked. But after a week of adjusting to the new time zone, I realized it was a great opportunity because I had my entire afternoon and evening free.
Bisnow: What was your first big deal?
Morali: When I was working in Paris 19 years ago in my first job in banking, I closed the financing for the leveraged buyout of Nexity, France's largest developer, in 2000.
Bisnow: What deal do you consider to be your biggest failure?
Morali: I can think of a missed opportunity. There was a deal that we could have done for $276M, but lost it holding at $270M. We were following the results of our Excel spreadsheets too closely when we should have had our eyes on the upside potential of the neighborhood, which of course no model can calculate. It was a great learning experience.
Bisnow: If you could change one thing about the commercial real estate industry, what would it be?
Morali: I wouldn't change a thing. Right now, it's a very diverse industry. No two deals are the same. Every new deal is like a new play with its own cast of characters and personalities, and I have to write the script. The casting is not always up to me, but we always figure out a good ending.
Bisnow: What is your biggest pet peeve?
Morali: When people don't follow up.
Bisnow: Who is your greatest mentor?
Morali: Ron Krolick, my boss at Crédit Lyonnais; a close second only to Charles Kushner.
Bisnow: What is the best and worst professional advice you've ever gotten?
Morali: Best advice: One of my best friends told me years ago to think about my career as a soccer player would; you always want to be playing for the best team that you know will be in the Champions League every year.
Worst advice: In January of 2008, I was advised not to leave the banking industry — worst career advice of all time. Luckily, I didn’t listen.
Bisnow: What is your greatest extravagance?
Morali: My guitar collection. I have 15 guitars so far, including one of Billy Gibbons’, which I cherish.
Bisnow: What is your favorite restaurant in the world?
Morali: You can’t go wrong with a New York classic — Il Buco on Bond Street.
Bisnow: If you could sit down with President Donald Trump, what would you say?
Morali: Can you please send Jared back?
Bisnow: What's the biggest risk you have ever taken?
Morali: Moving to New York right after 9/11. People thought we were crazy but we believed in this city and knew exactly what we were doing, and we are thankful for the opportunity of our lives.
Bisnow: What is your favorite place to visit in your hometown?
Morali: Place Stanislas, the main square in Nancy, France.
Bisnow: What keeps you up at night?
Morali: The shades banging on the window, which will get me to start thinking about deals.
Bisnow: Outside of your work, what are you most passionate about?
Morali: My wife, my children and my guitars.