The Return of the Nightlife King: Seth Greenberg
In fact, part of Greenberg’s appeal is the disarming sweetness in his manner. Though he’s built his career on cultivating the cool crowd, he carries himself like a nice Jewish boy. He calls his mom daily. He remembers names.
Greenberg studied accounting in college—left to his own devices, he would have pursued marketing, but his father laughed at the prospect, saying, "You think I need to pay for you to learn marketing?" Yet he still found time to throw parties, which he did under the name of, ahem, Stallion Productions. By his senior year, he was netting more than $40,000 from parties.
His success caught the attention of nightlife bigwigs Pat Lyons and Don Law, who, separately and jointly, had stakes in a burgeoning collection of bars and music venues around the city. In 1984, two years after graduating, Greenberg bought an ownership stake in the Paradise—owned by Lyons and Law—which had a comedy club called Stitches in the front room. About five years later, he turned that front room into M-80 and began promoting "Euro House" nights (he says he coined the name "Euro" locally, using it to describe the whole motley crew of wealthy international students and party kids around town).
Boston, then a town of duck boots and wide-wale corduroys, may have seemed an unlikely place for a Euro-obsessed party kid to plant his flag. But Greenberg’s view of the city was centered on Newbury Street’s high-end boutiques and salons. He saw the makings of a scene that reminded him of his Cricket Club days, and set about making himself invaluable to those he met. If you were a newcomer of certain means from Barcelona or Riyadh looking for advice on where to live or eat, or even where to find a dentist or buy a stereo, someone would likely send you to see Seth. "My office was a concierge service for everyone," he says. "Still is to this day."
His Saudi friends were so smitten that they began taking Greenberg to their estates in Cannes and Saint-Tropez. The somewhat improbable fact that a Jewish guy, raised Orthodox, now a secular Zionist, would be welcomed into the inner circle of Arab royalty didn’t seem to occur to anybody. Greenberg was fun and charismatic, and he attracted the kinds of women that lesser mortals couldn’t dream of approaching. "They took me to their homes and I became a family friend to my Saudi brothers," he says. "We even called each other ‘the brethren.’ And while I was there, I developed a true appreciation for European culture and nightlife."
Indeed, more than any kind of accounting acumen, it’s Greenberg’s gift for making friends that’s led to his business success. His well-cultivated relationships with gossip columnists produced reams of breathless reports about his appearances with an impressive list of pals, from Pablo Picasso’s grandson, Olivier, to Elle Macpherson. There he was, jetting off to London in 1996 in an attempt to lure the supermodel-themed Fashion Café to Boston. Here he was rubbing elbows with Carly Simon and Harvey Weinstein on the Vineyard. Even now, his partner in the Ames project is, as Greenberg says, "best friend" Richard Kilstock, who happens to be an heir to a British real estate fortune and the son-in-law of billionaire Clinton pardonee Marc Rich.
Which is not to say Greenberg’s relationships are mere quid pro quo arrangements, or a means to some loftier end. His friends speak of him with genuine affection, as he does of them. It’s just that, simply put, his social network remains his most valuable asset. "It has always been part of what I do. It’s part of the Seth lifestyle," he says with a smirk. "I take care of people and they take care of me."