The Howard Hughes Corp., which operates the Seaport complex on South Street, is putting its money – a whopping $55 million — where its mouth is.
Hughes just bought a 25 percent stake in Jean-Georges Restaurants (JGR), the 40-eatery empire of the great New York chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. His local places include flagship Jean-Georges, Nougatine, The Fulton at the Seaport, ABC Kitchen, Jo-Jo and The Mark.
On top of $45 million Hughes is paying for the minority stake, it also ponied up $10 million more for an option to buy 20 percent more of Vongerichten’s company. It might be the largest stake owned by a single real estate company in a restaurant group.
The Tin Building at the Seaport, to partly open this month, is Vongerichten’s biggest venture to date. Its success is crucial to Hughes’ future fortunes at the Seaport, which — to some analysts’ surprise — it held onto when it sold off $2 billion of “non-core” assets two years ago.
The Tin Building is a three-level gourmet food hall and restaurant collection spread out over 53,000 square feet inside the historic landmark building, which Hughes paid a fortune to reconstruct 30 feet east of its original East River site.
Hughes was quick to note that Vongerichten’s management team “will retain control of all day-to-day decision-making.”
But the companies are clearly partners in what’s hardly a passive investment. Hughes said it intends to fund growth capital for Vongerichten’s “expanding global empire.”
Publicly-traded Hughes’ 10-Q SEC filing for the second quarter also revealed that Hughes owns the Tin Building outright and leases it to Vongerichten.
Hughes paid for every dime of the Tin Building’s development and construction and also contributes cash to fund pre-opening, opening and operating costs.