New York real estate mogul Sheldon Solow died on Tuesday in New York at age 92. In a career spanning more than half a century, the Brooklyn-born developer built an empire of gleaming skyscrapers spanning millions of square feet across Manhattan. His death was reportedly caused by lymphoma.
Solow was one of the richest residents of New York City, with a fortune that Forbes estimated at $4.4 billion. The mogul appeared at No. 167 in the 2020 Forbes 400 list of America’s richest people. Solow earned a spot on the inaugural Forbes 400 list back in 1982 with a fortune estimated at over $100 million. He was one of only a handful of billionaires on the 2020 ranking to appear both on the 1982 list and on this year’s edition (another is President Donald Trump).
Solow was born in Brooklyn in the late 1920s to a bricklayer father who had emigrated from Russia, and his mother, who was a homemaker. He dropped out of New York University to pursue real estate and eventually built the Solow Building Company into a prominent player in the city’s real estate scene.
One of his more daring bets came in 1972 with the construction of 9 West 57th Street, a curved 50-story tower with an expansive view of Central Park that came to be known as the Solow Building. Derided and criticized at the time for its odd structure and for towering over the surrounding area, it turned out to be a runaway success — before the pandemic hammered commercial real estate, at least — and went on to house tenants including Chanel and private equity shop KKR. The building’s ground floor is also home to Solow’s eclectic art collection — including works by Sandro Botticelli, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse — which is closed to the public.
His latest project was a 43-story glass skyscraper at 685 First Avenue, dubbed One United Nations Park, which took nearly two decades to complete on a sprawling lot initially acquired from the electrical utility company Con Edison. In a phone call with Forbes in July, Solow noted that the sale of condos in the building was going “very, very well.”
Solow will be succeeded at his real estate firm by his son, Stefan Soloviev, who uses an older, Russian spelling of the family name. Soloviev, a graduate of the University of Rhode Island and St. John’s University in New York, has been working at his father’s firm for more than 20 years. He also owns Crossroads Agriculture, a farming and ranching company with land in New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.
Solow is also survived by his wife, Mia Solow, and another son, Nikolai.