Jonathon Yormak is an alumnus of Fried Frank’s Real Estate Department. In 2011, he launched the real estate investment firm East End Capital, where he is currently the Managing Principal.
What have you been up to since your departure from Fried Frank?
I have been working as a real estate investor since I left Fried Frank in 2003. When I first left Fried Frank, I joined Broadway Partners as one of its five original partners. We were buying value-add office buildings in all of the major coastal markets of the United States. During my tenure there, we bought over $25 billion of commercial office space. In my time at Broadway, the firm expanded from a staff of about 5-6 people to over 70, and we were managing over $2 billion of equity. During the market downturn in 2009, I left Broadway and spent the next few years working with Richard Ruben, a Fried Frank client, and helped him run his family holdings. The holdings included approximately 5 million square feet of office space and 1,000 apartments located mainly in New York City; Washington, DC; and Boston. In 2011, I launched East End Capital with some of my former Broadway colleagues, most notably my partner David Peretz. At East End, we grew our strategy beyond investing in office, which is what I had been mainly doing before, to also invest in apartments and retail, with a focus on New York City and Miami. Since launching East End, we’ve done about $1.5 billion worth of transactions. We do our deals in a one-off format and we focus on heavy repositioning and ground up development in those asset classes.
How would you describe your role at East End Capital?
There’s nothing I don’t do, really. I focus each day on building a bigger and better firm. At a high level, this means harmonizing the opportunities we see with our core values. East End currently has 18 team members in our offices in New York City and Miami. Specifically, I oversee all of our investment and capital market relationships, sit on the investment committee and play a very heavy role in asset management.
What do you miss most about Fried Frank?
I loved being a lawyer and was not one of those folks who ran away from it as fast as I could. I was really interested in the creative aspects of real estate investment and believed that I could combine the skills that I had developed as a lawyer with a set of untapped skills that I felt I possessed to create real value.
But what I really miss the most, and one of the best parts about practicing law, is the consistent exposure to a diverse set of transaction types within the real estate universe. Because you’re representing multiple clients on different types of transactions in varied locations at any given time, you learn faster and differently than when you’re working for yourself. I do a relatively small amount of deals at East End. We have a limited amount of time and bandwidth and try to stick to our knitting, but when you’re a lawyer, you can work for the mall developer one day, and the apartment builder the next day, and the pension fund making a passive investment the next day, and so on. You’re doing all of these different things and you learn every asset class from every different angle each day – that’s what I miss the most.
What are some of the key takeaways, both personal and professional, from your experience at Fried Frank?
The education that I got at Fried Frank was fantastic. The Firm and Jon Mechanic created an environment where you’re working with best in class clients at all times, whether you’re on the equity side, the lender side, or partner side. You have hyper-talented people all around you and you’re working on very complicated transactions, so you’re constantly evolving and honing your craft as best as can be achieved at any firm I’ve ever been in. On the professional front at Fried Frank, it goes without saying that the level of work, attention to detail, and analytical thinking that’s expected of you is second to none. You become a better draftsman, you become a better thinker and analyzer of opportunities and risk, and that’s demanded of first year associates just like it is of a partner. It’s a great place to learn and I took all of that away from my time there.
But there is something a little more unique to the Firm that was learned in particular from my dealings with Jon [Mechanic], Josh [Mermelstein], Meyer [Last], Rob [Sorin], and some of the other senior partners. While they’re all great at the legal side, I think they also distinguish themselves as being very deal friendly. They recognize that their job is to facilitate a transaction and not inhibit one, and so there’s always that artful balance between protecting your clients and helping them close deals. And so, learning how to strike that balance was probably one of the most important things I learned at Fried Frank, and also something that distinguishes the Firm from many of its counterparts.
The third takeaway is the amazing network and great group of friends. I’m still exceptionally friendly with Jon and Wendy [Mechanic] and a whole bunch of people on a list that goes down from there. The alumni are amazing and accomplished. I’m still friends with people now that are in all other parts of the real estate business and in all different locations, some at law firms, but lots of them in business. The network is fantastic. It definitely forms a large component of the key relationships that have helped me advance my career.
Who was your mentor, if anyone, during your time at Fried Frank? Do you still keep in touch?
Jonathan Mechanic, who is chair of Fried Frank’s Real Estate Department. We are still exceptionally close.
What one memory from your time at Fried Frank still brings a smile to your face?
I had been at Fried Frank for a relatively short period of time, and was working with Jon [Mechanic] on the representation of The Equitable Life Assurance Society in connection with its sale of 1515 Broadway. During one of the first meetings with the client, Jon and I were in a conference room sitting across the table from Mark Holliday, Andrew Mathias, Andrew Levine, Rob Ivanhoe, Steve Rabinowitz, and Craig Solomon. So we were outnumbered! About five minutes into the meeting, which was somewhat tense, Jon had to take a call and left the room. He didn’t return for an hour, which meant I had to single-handedly navigate the meeting with all of these highly skilled and powerful individuals on the other side of the table. What sticks with me to this day about the meeting isn’t that I did it by myself, but that Jon felt comfortable enough leaving me to handle the situation alone. The faith and trust he showed in me was empowering.
What are three things that you can’t live without?
My wife and children, first and foremost. And tennis and tequila.