Big names in finance and real estate who invested in the Four Seasons restaurant revival are miserable they were forced to close the place after less than a year — but said they had no choice.
Real estate powerhouse Bill Rudin, who was married at the original Four Seasons, termed the closing “obviously sad.” He said that he and his sister Beth DeWoody invested in part because the old Four Seasons was “so important to the city. I thought the reincarnation would work. But obviously they ran into budget and other issues that impacted it.”
The original Four Seasons lasted 57 years at the Seagram Building until it closed in 2016. But its 2018 revival a few blocks away at 280 Park Ave. — which cost more than $32 million to launch with an elaborate design by Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld — was an instant flop.
The roster of sophisticated investors included members of the Bronfman and Rudin families, Steve Jobs’ widow Laurene Powell Jobs and wealthy Donald Trump donor Bill White, former head of the Intrepid Air & Space Museum, and his husband Bryan Eure, whom he married at the original Four Seasons in 2011.
They were among 20-odd backers who plunked down more than $18 million by mid-2017 to help relaunch the fabled eatery at the new location, according to documents seen by The Post.
In July 2017, Four Seasons operating partner Alex von Bidder e-mailed his then-partner Julian Niccolini that they had raised and deposited $18.25 million from 23 backers. Among them: Edgar M., Matthew and Sam Bronfman; Bill Rudin’s cousin, Eric Rudin; and financiers Stephen Schwarzman, Paul Taubman, Steve Rattner and Joe Palumbi.
Several others had committed but not yet delivered funds, including former AIG chief Hank Greenberg, who was “in” for $1 million, according to the memo.
Edgar Bronfman said the Four Seasons simply failed to take in enough revenue. CBRE dealmaker Stephen B. Siegel, who also invested in the restaurant with his wife Wendy Siegel, told The Post: “The problem was the inability to get comfortable that revenue would increase within a time frame that was credible to old and new investors.
Everyone was in a positive mode, including [landlords] Vornado and SL Green, to try to save it.”
Siegel said he backed the closing with regret. “It deserved to be saved but it just didn’t hit the ground running,” he said. It was unknown whether Vornado chief Steven Roth had a personal investment.
The other investors, the landlords and von Bidder either declined to comment or couldn’t be reached.
But insiders described a miserable backstage drama that included cost overruns and construction delays, the surprise December axing of Niccolini over his past history of sexual harassment — and an often empty dining room. One customer described it as a “ghost town” when only four tables were filled one afternoon.
“Barry Diller isn’t enough,” she reported.
“They were scrounging for new private equity because the original group didn’t want to put any more in,” a source said.
Von Bidder emerged shaken from a Thursday night meeting that included the Bronfmans and some others, a different source said.
“He didn’t expect it,” the insider said. “They just launched outdoor seating a few weeks ago and they were still hopeful.”
Insiders blamed the design of two private dining rooms on the second floor for the failure. “They were supposed to draw fancy weddings and bar mitzvahs to keep the place afloat, but they had floor-to-ceiling columns which blocked views and built-in furniture that nobody liked.
“They were so desperate that they started using them for live jazz, which is often the kiss of death.”
Steve Cuozzo [NYPost.com]
Steven D. Cuozzo (born January 17, 1950) is an American writer and newspaper editor who writes as a restaurant critic, real estate columnist, and op-ed contributor at the New York Post, a daily newspaper primarily distributed in New York City and its surrounding area. A lifetime resident of New York, Cuozzo spent his career at the Post, working his way up from his entry-level copy boy position in 1972, through positions including copy editor in the newsroom, entertainment editor, assistant managing editor in charge of features, and executive editor. In 1996, he summarized his experiences at the Post in his book, It’s Alive! How America’s Oldest Newspaper Cheated Death and Why It Matters. As of 2013, Cuozzo writes as a restaurant critic, real estate columnist, and op-ed contributor at the New York Post and lives with his wife Jane on the Upper East Side.