Boston’s Quietest Real Estate Moguls Get Some Attention

Barry and Adam Portnoy's dispute with shareholders gets the New York Times treatment.

A shareholder uprising is shedding spotlight on Barry and Adam Portnoy’s $25 billion real estate empire, run mainly out of Newton and heretofore without much fanfare. A dispute between the father-son moguls and a group of shareholders that’s received some local press attention was the subject of a long New York Times piece this week.

The Times’s Julie Creswell seems to know she’s showering media attention on a company that does not often seek it out. Noting that the Portnoys’ operation is “rarely noticed outside tight business circles,” she thus takes pains to describe the corporate culture, which makes it an interesting read for those of us who might not otherwise follow sprawling corporate entities and their shareholder disputes, but are interested to hear more about the wealthy in our midst. Of father Barry Portnoy, the real estate industry’s “Anti-Trump,” she writes:

In an industry known for big money and bigger egos, he cuts a decidedly unglamorous figure. Mr. Portnoy runs his empire on a shoestring and, by most accounts, is far more interested in making money than spending it. For a time, he commuted to work in a Subaru.

His son, Adam, she notes, makes a bit more of an impression, or at least, his wife does:

Adam Portnoy’s wife, Elika, was a runner-up in a Miss Bulgaria beauty contest. Said to be an expert marksman, she played a belly dancer in the 2012 Christian Slater thriller “Assassin’s Bullet.” Adam Portnoy owns a 43-foot yacht called the Mutressa, a Bulgarian term that loosely translates as “gangster’s mistress.”

The Boston Business Journal summarizes the dispute well, noting that shareholders led by several hedge fund managers who are invested in the company complain about the management structure and the financial policies that they say enrich the Portnoys and stiff the shareholders.

Rather than arbitrate or delve too deeply into the grievances which have been ongoing this year, the Times seems mostly concerned with noting that the legal battle means we’ll necessarily get a better glimpse at the company:

Whatever the outcome, the imbroglio has trained attention on a web of trusts and partnerships that the Portnoys have long used to pull many millions from CommonWealth and other public entities that own city towers and suburban office complexes across the nation.

Hey, and even if the “imbroglio” itself hadn’t trained attention on it, a New York Times write up sure does.