Beyond The Bio: 16 Questions With Marx Realty CEO Craig Deitelzweig
This series profiles men and women in commercial real estate who have profoundly transformed our neighborhoods and reshaped our cities, businesses and lifestyles.
Craig Deitelzweig is the president and CEO of Marx Realty, a management and development company with 4.3M SF of commercial office, retail and residential space. A division of the publicly traded Merchants National Properties, Marx has 67 properties in 17 states, including the office building 10 Grand Central at 155 East 44th St. in Midtown East in Manhattan, and the Cross County Shopping Center in Yonkers, New York. The company is aiming to buy $1B worth of real estate this year in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta.
Deitelzweig, a former attorney, joined the firm in August 2017. He spoke about real estate’s “group-think” mentality, how a meritocracy is the best way to attract talent and why he’ll always believe in the Mets.
Bisnow: How do you describe your job to people who are not in the industry?
Deitelzweig: I create value by creating special experiences for our tenants.
Bisnow: If you weren’t in commercial real estate, what would you do?
Deitelzweig: I would either be a landscape architect or the Federal Reserve chairman.
Bisnow: What is the worst job you ever had?
Deitelzweig: Unfortunately, I once worked in a real estate company where the CEO did not share my vision of creating truly memorable and distinctive spaces for our tenants. I found it really difficult to work in an environment where we were not pushing ourselves every day to be the best in the industry in development and service while striving to build that “better mousetrap.”
Bisnow: What was your first big deal?
Deitelzweig: Marrying my wife, Lisa. By far, the best internal rate of return.
Bisnow: What deal do you consider to be your biggest failure?
Deitelzweig: After the Great Recession, there have been a few instances where I wanted to acquire a property in New York, and had an unbelievable plan to redevelop the property, but in the end we didn’t buy the assets as my past company did not believe in New York’s recovery story. Wow, I could have been responding to these questions on an island somewhere in the Caribbean if those deals were finalized.
Bisnow: If you could change one thing about the commercial real estate industry, what would it be?
Deitelzweig: I think sometimes the real estate industry has a group-think mentality. I always strive to be a unique thinker and would encourage everyone in commercial real estate to do the same.
Bisnow: What is your biggest pet peeve?
Deitelzweig: I hate when people present problems without a potential solution. Drives me crazy. I like to surround myself with creative people who are continually finding creative solutions to tricky, often complex, problems.
Bisnow: Who is your greatest mentor?
Deitelzweig: My greatest mentor was outside the real estate industry. My parents always taught me to do the right thing and to know that my reputation is paramount. I think about that during every daily interaction.
Bisnow: What is the best and worst professional advice you've ever gotten?
Deitelzweig: The best advice was by John Fraser when I worked at Investcorp. He always stressed the importance of working in a meritocracy. As I look at my team here at Marx, I always want people to know that we operate in a merit system and those who are exceptional will be rewarded — this merit-based approach is truly the best way to attract and retain talent.
The worst advice I received is that all you need in real estate is to buy and then sit passively to make money. I believe in actively working every asset to build and create value.
Bisnow: What is your greatest extravagance?
Deitelzweig: Sitting on my front porch with my family and my dog Murphy (named after Daniel Murphy of the Mets — we kept the name despite his trade).
Bisnow: What is your favorite restaurant in the world?
Deitelzweig: KFC. I only have KFC on special occasions like July 4th or my birthday.
Bisnow: If you could sit down with President Donald Trump, what would you say?
Deitelzweig: I would reminisce about our mutual childhoods in Queens, N.Y.
Bisnow: What's the biggest risk you have ever taken?
Deitelzweig: When I switched from the safe world of being a real estate lawyer at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom to the risk-taking world of real estate investments, I was so passionate about real estate development that I took a significant pay cut to make that transition. I wondered if I might have to eat mac and cheese every night if things didn’t work out.
Bisnow: What is your favorite place to visit in your hometown?
Deitelzweig: Lemon Ice King of Corona.
Bisnow: What keeps you up at night?
Deitelzweig: I think about every detail. Sometimes, I will literally go through a budget in my sleep and come up with ways to save money on operating expenses or come up with a more dramatic lighting choice on a job.
Bisnow: Outside of your work, what are you most passionate about?
Deitelzweig: The NY Mets. One day they will be good.