Robert J. Pera, an under-the-radar, 42-year-old tech billionaire who owns the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, has been steadily adding real estate to his asset portfolio.
Over the past four years, the youthful founder of wireless equipment maker
has pieced together a collection of properties across the country, including at least four for a combined roughly $70 million. He has purchased in some of the most expensive and exclusive buildings in both New York and Seattle, and is building a brand-new mansion on a highly exclusive island in Miami Beach, according to public records and people familiar with his dealings.
Mr. Pera didn’t respond to numerous requests for comment on his purchases, which were transacted under a number of different limited-liability companies.
In New York City, an LLC tied to Mr. Pera recently purchased a $21.55 million penthouse at 56 Leonard Street, records show. The quirky, cantilevered Herzog & de Meuron-designed tower in downtown Manhattan has attracted a number of financiers and business executives.
The penthouse was the last of the units owned by the building’s developer, bringing to a close a sales process that launched in September 2008, the same week Lehman Brothers collapsed, and then relaunched years later. The unit, a roughly 5,250-square-foot spread with four bedrooms, has floor-to-ceiling windows and panoramic views of Manhattan and both the Hudson and East rivers, according to the listing. It also has 1,763 feet of exterior space. The unit had been initially reserved for Izak Senbahar, one of the building’s developers, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Before closing on the penthouse, another LLC tied to Mr. Pera bought a site in the same neighborhood for $19.95 million, records show. The Hubert Street property was home to an unused building that used to be a freight terminal. It was formerly owned by technology executive Adam Zoia, who had plans for a new house designed by Maya Lin, the architect behind the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Pera’s company ultimately filed plans for a residence on the site by Seattle architect Eric Cobb, which called for a 17,000-square-foot, 70-foot-high building made largely of glass and granite. Community Board 1’s Landmarks and Preservation Committee initially rejected the proposal late last year, but later approved a modified version, according to Bruce Ehrmann, chair of the committee who had criticized the original design as hostile.
“The original proposal was intended to shelter whoever was the purchaser from the neighborhood,” Mr. Ehrmann said. “The lower levels looked like the ramparts of a medieval fort.”
On Miami Beach’s Star Island, an enclave of roughly 30 homes that has drawn the likes of Rosie O’Donnell and Sean “Diddy” Combs, an LLC tied to Mr. Pera purchased a home for $25 million last year from the family of Lennar Chairman
, according to a person familiar with the deal. Mr. Pera is currently in the process of demolishing the home and building a replacement, the person said. That house will also be designed by Mr. Cobb, according to another person familiar with the plans.
Mr. Pera also owns an apartment at the Four Seasons Residences in Seattle, which he bought for $3.03 million in 2016, records show. The roughly 2,400-square-foot condo looks out onto the Puget Sound and comes with all the amenities of the Four Seasons hotel attached, including a valet, a spa, room service and a concierge, according to the original listing.
Many of the purchases are registered to the same Seattle-based accountancy firm, and most were gotten at a significant discount.
At 56 Leonard, the unit he purchased came on the market in 2013 for $29.5 million—he bought it for roughly 27% less. The Tribeca townhouse had been asking as much as $35 million at its peak—he paid roughly 43% less. The Star Island home had asked as much as $49 million before the sale—he paid nearly 49% less.
Todd Michael Glaser, a local developer who has built homes on Star Island, said Mr. Pera’s Star Island investment is likely already paying off. He estimated that property could now be worth as much as $50 million thanks to a string of recent megawatt deals on the island and increased interest in the area from Northeasterners looking to escape high-rise living during the pandemic.
Mr. Pera, an engineer, worked at Apple and left in 2005. He made his fortune as the founder and chief executive of Ubiquiti, which manufactures wireless data communication products. The company has a market capitalization of about $12 billion. Mr. Pera bought a majority stake in the Grizzlies in 2012.
Write to Katherine Clarke at [email protected]
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