Real Estate / High-Rises

Billionaire With Presidential Connections Shows Supreme Faith in Houston’s Young Real Estate Tycoon

The Inside Story of Douglas Elliman and Sudhoff's Big Team Up — How Howard Lorber and Jacob Sudhoff Bonded

BY // 08.26.19

The Cartier of real estate companies is coming to Houston, betting big on a 38-year-old wunderkind. And the Bayou City itself.

For all the noise created over celebrity-loved real estate power Douglas Elliman arriving in Houston thanks to its first-ever joint venture with Jacob Sudhoff’s Sudhoff Companies one important truth’s largely been missed. What a show of confidence it is in Houston’s luxury real estate scene.

Houston now joins New York, Los Angeles and Miami as Douglas Elliman epicenters.

“They did not want to go into Dallas,” Jacob Sudhoff tells PaperCity. “They did not want to go into Austin. They wanted Houston.

“Houston has arrived in relation to the other major markets.”

Billionaire Howard Lorber, the executive chairman of Douglas Elliman, brings a wealth of connections to the Houston market. Something Jacob Sudhoff found out about firsthand when he called Lorber one afternoon in the midst of the long deal making process.

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Lorber picked up — even though he happened to be with President Donald Trump at the time.

“Howard goes, ‘I’m with the president in the White House. Mind if I call you back? I’m like, ‘Sure Howard,’ ” Sudhoff recalls.

Sudhoff laughs.

“I’ve never met anyone more connected than him,” Sudhoff says of Lorber. “And I’ve met a lot of people.”

Sudhoff looks forward to tapping into those relationships — and Douglas Elliman’s unparalleled technology and analytics tools. In many ways, Douglas Elliman is like the early days Oakland A’s of Billy Bean (and Moneyball fame) when it comes to utilizing analytics in real estate. Even if they’re more Goliath than scrappy underdog.

“Their research technology and research analytics are so far ahead,” Sudhoff says. “They’re at another level when it comes to taking advantage of the data.”

Sudhoff’s already been blown away by the software now available to him. This includes some proprietary programs he did not even know existed before.

“We have better information,” he says. “And that’s going to be a great advantage for our clients.”

Douglas Elliman is probably best known for its splashy listings, celebrity clients and headline-grabbing agents. But Sudhoff is most wowed by the substance behind it all. The tech. The connections. The drive from the very top.

Making this joint venture come together was an 18 month process, one that saw Jacob Sudhoff and Howard Lorber spend a lot of time talking about things.  The 70-year-old Lorber and the 38-year-old Sudhoff found they shared many of the same real estate principles.

“One of the first things Howard asked me is, “What is your primary business? Resale or new development,’ ” Sudhoff says. “When I said new development, he said, ‘Good.’ ”

Douglas Elliman specializes in the latest and greatest. By partnering with Sudhoff, they get that immediately. The largest real estate brokerage firm in New York jumps right into some of Houston’s most high-profile new buildings, including Giorgetti Houston, The River Oaks high-rise, The Sophie and The Revere.

Douglas Elliman — and Waiting for the Right Deal

A number of Houston real estate firms reached out to Douglas Elliman over the years, seeking some type of arrangement. Lorber was not interested — until he found the right ally.

Howard M. Lorber, Executive Chairman, Douglas Elliman Realty, LLC. Photo courtesy Douglas Elliman
Billionaire Howard Lorber is one of the most connected men on the planet.

While Jacob Sudhoff gushes about Lorber’s connections and business sense, there is obviously plenty of respect for Sudhoff on the billionaire’s side as well. Douglas Elliman does not typically do partnerships. Lorber wants to own and control what his firm takes on.

But in Houston, with Sudhoff Companies, it is a true joint venture.

“I think Howard and I really built a relationship,” Jacob Sudhoff tells PaperCity.

Sudhoff becomes the CEO of Douglas Elliman Texas — and his business partner Catherine Lee will also have an important role in the new company. The move comes with plenty of business perks.

Like the fact that Douglas Elliman has established relationships with architecture firms such as SHoP Architects — the prominent New York-based firm that happens to be designing the Ion, Houston’s new Midtown tech hub. Now, SHoP will be doing a new Sudhoff building (as it becomes a Douglas Elliman Texas building) as well.

“Nobody else does that,” Sudhoff says. “They have access to architects that others simply don’t have.”

To Sudhoff, who only started his company in 2010, this does not represent a meteoric rise as much as it does an exhilarating evolution. He has been building toward something like this. He always wanted to do even more.

Douglas Elliman now boasts more than 120 offices and more than 7,000 sales associates throughout the United States. Houston immediately becomes one of its most interesting markets.

Part of the Bayou City’s draw came in how Lorber kept noticing that a disproportionate number of buyers of the spectacular homes Douglas Elliman sold in places like California, Denver and Miami were Houstonians.

“Most Houstonians will always keep a home in Houston even if they buy another home,” Sudhoff says. “The difference is their second home usually costs more than their main Texas home.”

Yes, Houston’s power is no longer being ignored by the giants. The billionaire and the young real estate wizard’s new partnership proves that.

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