Seymour Milstein

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Seymour Milstein
Born 1920
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Died 2001 (aged 80–81)
Ethnicity Jewish
Citizenship United States
Alma mater B.A. New York University
Occupation real estate developer
Spouse(s) Vivian Leiner
Children Constance Milstein
Philip Milstein
Parents Morris Milstein
Family Paul Milstein (brother)

Seymour Milstein (1920–2001) was an American real estate developer and philanthropist.

Early life and education[edit]

Milstein was born to Jewish family[1] in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx.[2] In 1919, his father Morris Milstein, an immigrant from Russia and who started out as a floor scraper, founded the Circle Floor Company, Inc., a wood flooring company,[3] and in 1945, the Mastic Tile Company, a vinyl floor tile manufacturing company.[4]

In 1941, Milstein graduated from New York University. He went to work for Mastic Tile becoming president in 1955 while his brother, Paul Milstein, went to work for Circle Floor becoming president in 1961.[5][2] In 1959, Mastic Tile, was sold to Ruberoid, for $24 million.[5] Circle Floor expanded into floor tiles, acoustical ceilings, and drywall construction[5] and won contracts to install flooring in several New York landmarks including Rockefeller Center, the United Nations Building,[2] and both John F Kennedy Airport and LaGuardia Airport.[6] By 1966, Circle Floor was the nation's largest subcontractor of floor, wall and ceiling construction.[5]


In the late 1950s, Milstein and his brother Paul founded Milstein Properties and branched out into real estate.[1] Paul was the aggressive frontman and deal-maker while Seymour was the contemplative finance person who preferred to work behind the scenes.[7] This difference is temperament led them to be coined "the diplomat and the barbarian."[8] In 1964, they completed their first large real estate development, the 34-story, 680-unit Dorchester Towers on the Upper West Side.[5][2][1][9] Also in 1964, they sold Circle Floor to Kinney National Company (then run by Steve Ross) for $15 million with Paul remaining as manager of the unit until 1971.[5]

In 1974, the Milsteins entered the mining and energy sectors;[10] and acquired United Brands, the parent company of Chiquita Bananas,[10] after the suicide of its owner Eli M. Black.[5] In 1981, the Milsteins stripped the New York Biltmore Hotel down to its steel structure and reclad the frame in granite - despite the building's landmark status and concerted protests by preservationists - in order to fashion a new headquarters for Bank of America.[11][5] In 1986, the Milsteins acquired the Emigrant Savings Bank,[10] which they built into the largest privately owned bank in the country.[12][10] In 1986, they founded Liberty Cable Co.[10]

In 1989, the Milstein family acquired Douglas Elliman-Gibbons & Ives residential real estate brokerage from Edwin J. Gould and Lawrence O. McGauley.[3] They hired new brokers and expanded its geography from the Upper East Side to the entire city.[3] At the time of purchase Douglas Elliman had 10% of the New York City brokerage and managed 15,000 apartments. His nephew, Howard Milstein served as Chairman for ten years and built the brand to a 40% share of the brokerage market and over 50,000 apartments managed. Douglas Elliman was sold to Insignia Financial Group in two transactions for a total sum of $85 million:[3] the management division was sold in 1995[13] and the brokerage division was sold in 1999.[10][3] Howard and his father Paul did not inform Seymour about the transaction indicating that they were not required to do so since their side of the family had an aggregate 60% ownership of the partnership (20% by Paul Milstein and 10% with each of Paul's children);[8] this began the deterioration of the relationship between the two elder brothers eventually leading to litigation and the unwinding of their long business partnership.[8]

Through various family controlled entities, the Milsteins built or bought residential properties with more than 50,000 apartments, 8,000 hotel rooms and 20,000,000 square feet (1,900,000 m2) of office space.[10]


Milstein funded the Vivian and Seymour Milstein Family Heart Center at NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital.[14]

Personal life and death[edit]

In 1945, Milstein married Vivian Leiner.[4] They had two children: Constance Milstein is a general partner at Milstein Properties[15] and married to Count Jehan-Christophe de La Haye Saint Hilaire;[16] and Philip L. Milstein,[4] the president of Emigrant Savings Bank[17] and spouse of Cheryl Sue Glicker.[18]

In 2001, Seymour Milstein died of pneumonia.[4] Upon his death, the remaining partnership agreements between him and his brother were unwound.[19] The ownership structure underlying all the partnerships was set up with Paul and Seymour each with a 20% share; and the six nieces and nephews (the four children of Paul and the two children of Seymour) with 10% each.[19] An acrimonious legal tussle resulted between the two sides of the family with Paul's side claiming majority control since the sum of their interest was 60%. [19]


  1. ^ a b c Business Insider Australia: "MILSTEIN: The Rise And Schism Of A Powerful New York Family" by Carrie Hojnicki June 15 2012
  2. ^ a b c d New York Times: "Paul Milstein, City Real Estate Titan, Dies at 88" By DOUGLAS MARTIN August 9, 2010
  3. ^ a b c d e The Real Deal Real Estate News: "Billionaire developer Paul Milstein dies" By Adam Pincus August 09, 2010]
  4. ^ a b c d New York Times: "Seymour Milstein, City Real Estate Magnate, Dies at 81" by TERRY PRISTIN October 3, 2001
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h New York Times: "Milstein Opens Throttle as Builder" October 18, 1981
  6. ^ The Real Deal: "Milstein dynasty back in fray " By Candace Taylor February 2010
  7. ^ New York Times: "THE LIVES THEY LIVED: SEYMOUR MILSTEIN, B. 1920 LEWIS RUDIN, B. 1927; Lords of the Land" by James Traub December 30, 2001
  8. ^ a b c New York Observer: "Battle of Milsteins: Old Brothers Clash, As Do Grown-Up Boys" By Andrew Rice May 29, 2000
  9. ^ Street Easy: "Dorcester Towers" retrieved November 9, 2013
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Milstein Medical Asian American Partnership Foundation: "CETV Profile of Howard P. Milstein" October 26, 2012
  11. ^ New York Times: "Retaining Order to Block Biltmore Demolition Expires August 19, 1981
  12. ^ New York Times, Cuff, Daniel F. and Phillips, Stephen, 1/6/87, "New Emigrant Owners are Tenacious Builders"
  13. ^ Real Estate Weekly: "Douglas Elliman/Kreisel sold to Insignia" September 13, 1995
  14. ^ New York Presbyterian: "Vivian and Seymour Milstein Family Heart Center " retrieved November 9, 2013
  15. ^ New York Times: "WEDDINGS; Abigail B. Black, Richard Elbaum" August 07, 1994
  16. ^ Women's Wear Daily: "Relais & Châteaux Choose NYC for UNESCO Gala" By Susan Watters March 31, 2011
  17. ^ BusinessWeek Corporate Profiles: "Philip L. Milstein" retrieved November 9, 2013
  18. ^ new York Times: "Cheryl S. Glicker, Lawyer, Married" April 20, 1986
  19. ^ a b c Forbes: "Kickin' Cousins - the death of a real estate mogul adds fuel to a family feud. It’s cheaper to play nice" by Joanne Gordon November 26, 2001