Yigal Zemah has represented Berggruen Holdings in Israel since January 2006. He participates in creating a long-term diversified private equity and real estate portfolio in Israel in addition to serving as a director of Berggruen Residential Limited.
We caught up with him to find out more.
LM: How long have you worked in the luxury property sector, and please tell our readers a little more about Berggruen Residential.
ZY: I have been working in the Luxury residential sector since 2002, firstly with the Aurec Group before I initiated Berggruen with Nicolas Berggruen in 2006 which I took public in 2007. Berggruen focuses on super luxury towers with an emphasis on unique design made by star architects like Richard Meier. What we bring to the luxury sector is that we’re creating art from architecture as we believe that residential towers are urban functional art.
LM: The Meier-on-Rothschild Tower is thought of as Tel Aviv’s finest luxury living space. Can you tell our readers more about this stunning development?
ZY: The iconic 42-storey Meier-on-Rothschild Tower designed by Pritzker Prize-Winning international architect Richard Meier has attracted a multitude of wealthy purchasers, from across the world, with over 90% of the apartments already sold, achieving record total sales figures in excess of NIS 950 million.
The specification of the apartments in the tower is of the highest quality including spacious rooms, high-ceilings, bespoke designer kitchens, Carrara marble clad bathrooms, bespoke cabinetry to the built-in wardrobes and dressing rooms and Smart Home technology for entertainment, climate control and security, as well as residents enjoying the best views of Tel Aviv and beyond.
Located at 36 Rothschild Boulevard, the wide tree-lined Parisian-style Avenue in the centre of Tel Aviv’s famous commercial, restaurant/café and nightlife district, the Meier-on-Rothschild Tower is ideally placed in the city, a cosmopolitan beachside location, with heat for 9 months of the year. The city’s numerous districts have an array of bars, nightclubs, restaurants and shopping malls, as well as a vibrant youthful culture. The local government recently introduced a scheme, similar to London’s ’Boris Bikes’, with people able to hire bikes and cycle around the city, taking in the landscape, the beach and cycle along the promenade from North Tel Aviv to Jaffa.
LM: There seems to be a property boom in Tel Aviv at the moment. Why is Tel Aviv attracting so many international investors?
ZY: As the business and financial centre of Israel, Tel Aviv attracts a multitude of national and international investment, which has led new-build properties to be highly popular, as investors look to be close to business interests.
Tel Aviv attracts mainly overseas wealthy Jewish individuals that wish to have a second home here or somewhere to stay in the summer. Saying that, the Tel Aviv market is also fuelled by domestic investors. Israel boasts a high number of high net-worth nationals, including one of the region’s only female billionaires, Shari Arison, who also fuel the Tel Aviv property market, as they flock to the multicultural commercial and leisure hub. Forbes recently reported that Israel boasts 18 billionaires, with a combined net worth of $51.75 billion, placing them as the second highest contributor to the Middle Eastern billionaire list. Overall, Israel contributes five of the top 10 net worth billionaires in the Middle East. Israel also has a large amount of millionaires, in relation to the countries size, with over 11,000 millionaires.
LM: Israel is proving to be a great destination for global technology companies such as Intel, Google, IBM and Microsoft to name but a few. How will this impact the luxury property sector in the region?
ZY: Currently, Israel has the highest density of tech start-ups in the world, which attracts more venture capital dollars per-capita than any other country. This status has attracted a number of global technology companies, with Intel employing almost 10,000 people in Israel, as well as Google, IBM and Microsoft all having Research and Development centres in the country.
Of course this trend increases the demand for luxury property in Israel, but it is mostly true for rental properties, as we tend to see representatives, employees and delegates of these companies come to Tel Aviv on secondments, rather than relocate entirely, therefore, lessening the need to purchase a property outright.
LM: The Meier-on-Rothschild Tower recently sold five luxury apartments for a combined total of £8 million pounds. Can you tell our readers why this project has proved to be such a huge hit with wealthy purchasers?
ZY: The Meier-on-Rothschild Tower is the proof that for great quality there will always be a demand. This project gives a unique chance to experience the highest standard of living, in one of the best locations in Tel Aviv, with all the luxurious amenities for pleasure and business around like-minded people. Almost everyone that has viewed apartments at the tower have purchased. They just fall in love with what we have built here, a real masterpiece.
LM: What is the profile of your clients wishing to purchase an apartment or penthouse suite within the Meier-on-Rothschild Tower?
ZY: Typically, high net worth individuals looking for a safe secure homes in one of Israel¹s best locations. Our purchasers tend to come to Tel Aviv due to family connections, business activities or a love for the culture and lifestyle of this great city.
LM: The Meier-on-Rothschild was developed by Berggruen Residential and designed by Pritzker Prize-Winning international architect Richard Meier. How long did this project take to complete from concept right through to completion?
ZY: To make a new icon takes some time. Because of the ultra high and uncompromising standards of our project, we have faced numerous challenges throughout the years. We started the project in late 2006-early 2007 and we are planning to complete by the end of 2015. It has been a long process, but we have needed to make sure that the tower lasts through the ages. Our vision is that the Meier-on-Rothschild Tower is as modern and ultra-luxurious in the years to come as it is today.
LM: Other than the Meier-on-Rothschild what other towers/buildings represents significant buildings?
ZY: I like the Beekman Tower by Frank Gehry in Lower Manhattan. It is a great residential tower with a unique liquid like metal cover that makes the tower an asymmetric “one piece” tower.
LM: The Meirer-on-Rothschild Tower has attracted interest from celebrities such Madonna and Simon Cowell. Can you tell our readers of any other celebrities who have expressed an interest in the apartments?
ZY: The tower has attracted and still attracts, many more celebrities and influential people around the world and it will continue to do so. It has been labelled the One Hyde Park of Tel Aviv. Developments of this quality will always be sought after by the rich and famous.
LM: The largest penthouse in the tower is priced at £28.5 million and is called ‘Palace in the Sky’, and is located on the 38th and 39th floors. Please tell our readers what other luxurious features come within this ultimate living space?
ZY: The ‘Palace in the Sky’ is the most desirable penthouse in Israel. Because of its huge size (1418 sqm/15,257 sq ft), it is like living in a private house on the sky. The panoramic views of Tel Aviv, Jaffa, the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordanian hills are breathtaking. The penthouse features its own exercise room, spa, swimming pool & Jacuzzi, private elevator, 8 bathrooms, 20-foot ceiling heights, home theatre and huge outdoor terraces.
On the upper level are the luxurious bedroom suites, each with walk-in dressing rooms and bathrooms. The master bedroom suite has expanses of floor to ceiling glazing and also glass feature walls looking into the atrium space formed by the double-height reception. The suite includes a day room/study, walk-in dressing rooms and luxurious ensuite bathroom with Jacuzzi. The penthouse is complete with a large private leisure deck with private outdoor swimming pool, relaxation area and barbeque area and conservatory space with kitchenette.
LM: What is your personal definition of luxury? What luxurious item could you not live without?
ZY: Luxury is a unique quality, which stretches beyond the pure necessity in an holistic way. Meaning in ALL aspects the product has to be perfect as one may desire which is more than just the immediate needs. In real estate, it means that a tower has to be in the best location, be perfectly designed and constructed for the best possible tenants which no compromises to get a dream apartment. Every person has a different taste in luxury. In my case the habitat has to be perfect since my family and I spend so much time in it.