Empire: A Tale of Obsession, Betrayal, and the Battle for an American Icon

tags: real estate, nyc, trump

Apparently, no one knew who actually owned The Empire State Building for a period of years, back in the 90s.

A Japanese billionaire had bought it at a cheap price, because it was saddled with a really crappy 114-year lease. But he had actually directed his daughter to buy it (he had never even been to the U.S.), and she and her husband might have stolen it from him. Maybe. Or it might have been a mistake. No one really knows or can agree on it.

But, eventually, the Japanese billionaire realized the building didn’t belong to him, and a long legal saga ensued where he sued his daughter and son-in-law. This exploded into all sorts of lawsuits between a large cast of characters, including Leona Helmsley and – God help us all – a pre-president Donald Trump (the book was written in 2001).

All along, Trump is lurking in the background, like a parasite. He puts up none of this money, and works a deal where he can make millions if he just can just break the 114-year lease. He gets typically theatrical and Machiavellian.

It’s well-researched, and well-written, but in the end, I couldn’t help but think: who cares? It’s basically a book about a very specific and esoteric legal fight that had virtually no ramifications or consequences outside of an exclusive circle of very rich people.

I came away thinking they were all pretty horrible, and they all deserved the drama and heartache they created for themselves.

Book Info