ADDRESSES: Home—Brooklyn, NY. Office—c/o Wiley Publishers, 605 Third Ave., New York, NY 10158.
CAREER: Reporter for Wall Street Journal.
AWARDS, HONORS: Business Reporting Award, New York Press Club, 1999; finalist, Gerald Loeb Award, 1999, for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism; nominee, Pulitzer Prize for journalism.
Empire: A Tale of Obsession, Betrayal, and the Battle for an American Icon, Wiley Publishers (New York, NY), 2001.
Also contributor of articles on real estate and business issues, including the collapse of the Long-Term Capital Management Hedge Fund, to newspapers.
SIDELIGHTS: Mitchell Pacelle made a name for himself in business journalism, winning honors for reporting on investments, business deals, and other seemingly dry topics. His first book, however, is a biography of the world-famous Empire State Building, and its story is far from dry. Empire: A Tale of Obsession, Betrayal, and the Battle for an American Icon is a window into the New York real estate industry and its major players, such as Leona Helmsely and Donald Trump.
The focus of Empire is on the battle for controlling ownership of the Empire State Building that took place throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The story begins when Henry Helmsley (husband to Leona) and Lawrence Wein buy and sell the building in 1961. Prudential then buys the building, but leases it to a group of investors, including Helmsley and Peter Malkin, for a 114-year period at what would eventually become a ridiculously low price. When the Helmsley fortunes began to fall apart—capped by the imprisonment of Leona Helmsley for tax evasion—they attempt to sell the property and Japanese billionaire Hideki Yokoi steps in. Yokoi, the central figure of Pacelle's story, buys the building in 1991, although it may have been secretly purchased by his illegitimate daughter Kiiko Nakahara and her husband, French investment banker Jean-Paul Renoir, who for a time partnered with Donald Trump to remake the New York landmark. Trump owns the land on which the building sits, but has no control over the building itself because of the long lease to Helmsley and Malkin. Pacelle suggests that Trump conspired with both Yokoi and Renoir to break the lease. Several of the principal figures in the book ultimately go to prison, others are accused of crimes, fall seriously ill, or die, further complicating the status of the building, which remains in doubt.
Pacelle's Empire was well received as a study of New York real estate with real-life soap opera elements. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly wrote that Pacelle "has great fun with the bizarre cast of characters, who plot and connive against one another in what reads like a cross between film noir and a Harold Robbins novel." Robert McNatt, writing for Business Week, suggested that Pacelle raises questions about the evolution of property ownership and development in New York. McNatt said Empire "gives the reader an overview of one of the greatest urban generators of wealth: real estate."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Publishers Weekly, July 23, 2001, review of Empire: A Tale of Obsession, Betrayal, and the Battle for an American Icon, p. 57.
Business Week Online,http://www.businessweek.com/ (November 19, 2001), Robert McNatt, "Street Fight for a Skyscraper."
Wiley Publications Web site,http://www.wiley.com/ (October 7, 2001).*