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Alex Rovt, the Fertilizer Baron of Manhattan
September 24, 2012 9:09 AM   Subscribe

Rovt shakes his head. “I would not pay $88 million for an apartment,” he said. “For $88 million, I would buy a house.”
posted by Chrysostom (44 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is not a commodity that is driven by fashion.
posted by mochapickle at 9:19 AM on September 24, 2012


Where is MY basement banya, dammit.
posted by elizardbits at 9:26 AM on September 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nothing cements the notion of "the 99%" like this sort of story. This guy throws around hundreds of millions of dollars on a whim. Someone way, way, down around the 98th percentile of wealthy Americans could probably pay off a normal $250k house in a year or two if they really tried. The income gap is just mind-boggling.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:29 AM on September 24, 2012 [12 favorites]


Nitrogen fixing fertilizers have been pretty good to us.
posted by boo_radley at 9:31 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Remember when it was supposed to be a bad thing that furriners were buying up real estate? First Japan, then China.

I guess when it's a vampire it's ok. :P

This isn't a bad strategy, actually. Stocks are for people with money to lose. Gold and real estate are for people who have money to hide. Since he's paid cash, he'll never be underwater. There will always be income. Navigating the intricacies of New York local politics is probably a lot more bloodless than navigating the porous borders of Carpathia.
posted by lysdexic at 9:40 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


What a fascinating (and sketchy) background
posted by dabug at 9:42 AM on September 24, 2012


This is not a commodity that is driven by fashion.

Kinda sorta. It tracks grain and corn prices, as well as the natural gas market. Grain prices have been going nuts in the past decade because of ethanol/biodiesel requirements in the EU and NA. Things are weird this year because of the weather, but govt policy and lobbies have had a big effect on fertilizer prices in the last few years.
posted by bonehead at 9:43 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was referring to the decor.
posted by mochapickle at 9:45 AM on September 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


What is it with shady business deals and French Second Empire decor?
posted by The Whelk at 9:53 AM on September 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Nothing cements the notion of "the 99%" like this sort of story.

The story of an immigrant who moved to the US in 1985 and went from working in a deli to this? Shady Russian dealings notwithstanding, is this really the best example?
posted by Behemoth at 10:00 AM on September 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


He's spending money made overseas in the US, buying properties and doing extensive renovations on them, giving money to local contractors and suppliers. I'd much rather he spend hundreds of millions on a whim then let that money sit in offshore accounts. At least the money reenters the economy. Even if some of his dealings were shady, they strike me as a lot less suspect than buying a company, taking out huge loans against it, paying yourself insane "management fees" and then dumping it into bankruptcy court when you've extracted all you can from it, making it someone else's problem. He's doing it all in cash too, avoiding handing money over to bankers in interest payments.

If there were ever a case for trickle down economics, this guy comes as close as I can think of. He has money to spend, so he does.
posted by mikesch at 10:20 AM on September 24, 2012 [19 favorites]


“I would not pay $88 million for an apartment,” he said. “For $88 million, I would buy a house.”

"Here, have some cake."
posted by fuse theorem at 10:21 AM on September 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


giving money to local contractors and suppliers.

And Republican politicians. Don't forget that..
posted by Chuckles at 10:26 AM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Rovt has a few other misconceptions that he wants to dispel. “First of all, I am not Russian, and I am not Ukrainian, either,” he says, with a touch of exasperation. “I am Carpathian.”

He is Vigo! You are as the buzzing of flies to him!

I hit that line in the article and that was all I could think of I'm sorry
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:27 AM on September 24, 2012 [14 favorites]


It is very important the rich in Manhattan squander their money on baubles and keeping The Met and the Central Park Conservancy flush. One alternative, hoarding it, is pretty bad. Wasting it is almost as good as investing it.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:38 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


The story of an immigrant who moved to the US in 1985 and went from working in a deli to this? Shady Russian dealings notwithstanding, is this really the best example?

I think the "more money than god" aspect of the story eclipses the fact that he once worked in a deli, personally. Maybe that's just me.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:41 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


And Republican politicians. Don't forget that..

And Democratic politicians. Don't forget that..

He is a businessman, after all.
posted by hot soup at 10:46 AM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wasting it is almost as good as investing it.

The primary benefit of expensive art is making the very wealthy slightly less rich.
posted by The Whelk at 10:51 AM on September 24, 2012 [10 favorites]


You could say they are investing it in whatever companies make $1000 artisanal doorknobs. These guys aren't just buying a $15 doorknob from restoration hardware.They allow the doorknob artisans operating out of garrets in Williamsburg to create masterpeice doorknobs to be enjoyed by future generations of doorknob scholars.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:03 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


The primary benefit of expensive art is making the very wealthy slightly less rich.
My god, you've justified the work of Jeff Koons.

I... I didn't think it could be done.
posted by ReadEvalPost at 11:06 AM on September 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


They allow the doorknob artisans operating out of garrets in Williamsburg to create masterpeice doorknobs to be enjoyed by future generations of doorknob scholars.

We snark about this stuff, but man, at least that doorknob will last a few years. If there's plutocrats in the world, there's worse things they could be doing than paying contractors and artisans to make durable goods. It beats the hell out of watching the 99% reduced to selling each other psychic readings and yoga lessons.
posted by mhoye at 11:08 AM on September 24, 2012 [10 favorites]


What is it with shady business deals and French Second Empire decor?

Slavic tradition to equate France with culture. In America do it with Greek architecture, birthplace of Democracy.
posted by stbalbach at 11:10 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


We snark about this stuff, but man, at least that doorknob will last a few years

I was only kinda snarking. I agree 100%. My doorknobs are original to the building, I don't think I could have replaced them with new doorknobs at any price until recently.

I do think peeps like best made should drop their prices a scad. $300 for an axe is a bit much.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:20 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Slavic tradition to equate France with culture.

Antiques and art are much more likely to appreciate in value over time than Swedish particleboard.
posted by mhoye at 11:22 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do think peeps like best made should drop their prices a scad. $300 for an axe is a bit much.

Best Made is hype and marketing - they paint axes made by someone else. They used to use Snow & Nealley, but switched to Council Tool after S&N went bust.

If you must get yourself a hipster axe, buy a Velvicut 4# Premium American Felling Axe, and spend the other $130 on paint.
posted by zamboni at 11:40 AM on September 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Bloomberg made a big deal out of the fact that his building was constructed out of reinforced concrete, equating it to a bunker. However, most urban buildings of that size are being built out of reinforced concrete today. It's not really that big of a deal.

Also, big money has always had a strong foothold in Manhattan, and the island's real estate market has always been completely bonkers. I doubt we'll ever be able to change those two things.
posted by schmod at 11:43 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Best Made is the most annoying company ever. Everything they sell is really annoying. 20 different axes? A box to store it? Why are they fetishizing the axe so much? Why are they so expensive? How much for a tin cup? 70$ for a jug of maple syrup. I can see that people might pay 200$ for an axe if they never knew the real price in the first place or they REALLY value the fact that someone painted the handle
posted by Napierzaza at 12:28 PM on September 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


> What is it with shady business deals and French Second Empire decor?

There's not much else that whispers oderint dum metuant as well, to me anyway.

Maybe related, nothing else says haunted house as well.
posted by jfuller at 12:36 PM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wasting it is almost as good as investing it.

I spent a lot of money on booze, women, and fast cars. The rest I just wasted.
posted by exogenous at 12:58 PM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


70$ for a jug of maple syrup.

This just irritated me so goddamn much that I actually shook my fist at the monitor and hissed.
posted by elizardbits at 1:23 PM on September 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure Best Made is a real company. I know they sell stuff, but they may be along the lines of some sort of art project like that artisanal pencil sharpener guy or the superhero supply store.

Check out this video about why they fetishize the axe. It makes the entire thing more perplexing. It is very PT Andersonesque. A dude in a red knit cap hand whittling axe handles in some Williamsburg apartment. He sarted making axes because "he lost touch with his hands"

I truely can't figure out what they are doing with those 15 types of axes. Is is some sort of William Gibson style otaku level of detailing and craftsmanship, like the fictitious Buzz Richardson bomber jacket? Is is just a scheme to make a couple bucks off New Yorkers who buy a house in the country and don't realize you can go to home depot and buy and axe for $30? Is it some sort of art project?

The other products I kinda understand. It is junk like my grandfather had, that I growing up in New York would never know where to get. Like tin cups and cool looking pocket knives and grease pencils. He would have just gone to the farm store or something, but here in New York, we don't have that.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:37 PM on September 24, 2012


Is Art, but not product art. Marketing Art. How you sell thing, good thing, yes? to farmer, you give good price, farmer buy, hokay. How you sell thing to rich man, thing good, thing bad, doesn't matter, is how you sell it, that is what rich man pay for. Duck in butcher case, fifteen roubles, you eat him. Good bargain. Not art. Dress up duck in suit, give cigarillo, draw moustache on beak with charcoal, see? Five million roubles, you say it is return of Salvador Dali, eat him. Crazy! That is real art. You sell is nothing but the selling itself.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:20 PM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ad, the Buzz Rickson jacket was (and is) real.

http://www.buzzricksons.com/
posted by uberchet at 2:21 PM on September 24, 2012


This just irritated me so goddamn much that I actually shook my fist at the monitor and hissed.

I can only assume the $116 scissors command such a price because they are capable of stabbing the seller in the eye over the internet.
posted by Behemoth at 2:22 PM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


uberchet: "Ad, the Buzz Rickson jacket was (and is) real."

While Buzz Ricksons is a real manufacturer, the black Buzz Ricksons MA-1 jacket described in Pattern Recognition did not exist until after the novel was published.
posted by mbrubeck at 2:45 PM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


damnit now I want those chukka boots
posted by The Whelk at 2:45 PM on September 24, 2012


$116 scissors

People are going to start thinking my office is full of snakes. HISSSSSSSSS.
posted by elizardbits at 2:57 PM on September 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Now that I've had a chance to calm down, I should point out that Best Made also sells "unfinished" versions of the Felling and Hudson Bay axes that are cheaper than the Council Tool list price for the Velvicuts. It is a choice between you and your dignity.

What are they selling? Authenticity.
posted by zamboni at 4:54 PM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Once I am holding the axe and everyone else is not, dignity is not really going to be an issue.
posted by elizardbits at 5:06 PM on September 24, 2012


Why does it come with documentation, what kind of documentation does an axe need?

I've only even used one of those $30 axes, whenever I broke the handle, I put a new one on by tapping the head on a bit, then holding it upside down and tapping on the bottom of the handle to let the head inch itself on. Maybe I should have had a better axe though.

Anyway, I'm no expert at lumberjacking, but I think trying to fell a tree with an axe would be a losing proposition. Chopping across the grain with an axe would be very frustrasting, expecially swinging into a tree sideways.

They should reall sell a complete line. $500 crosscut saws. $100 splitting wedges,$350 sledge hammer to drive the wedges. As it stands, people are going to try chopping down trees and it will be very frustrating.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:24 PM on September 24, 2012


I had the same problem, but a different quote sprang to mind:

Only a Carpathian would come back to life now and choose New York!

I use that quote with some regularity, and barely even remember the movie.
posted by Ickster at 6:57 PM on September 24, 2012


I'm kind of late to the party here, and I don't want to keep this axe derail going, but as a blacksmith and axe geek I was kind of appalled looking at those Best Made axes. I'm pretty sure you're just paying for the paint. If you want to invest in a real luxury axe, go with a Gränsfors Bruks. They are hands-down some of the best axes I've ever handled. Also, yes, there are purposes for "15 different" axes, but looking at the Best Made products, one is hardly different from the next. Gränsfors makes axes of different shapes and sizes, suitable for all kinds of log cabin-building applications. They are also about half as much as a comparable Best Made model. Oh, and you do get documentation, but it's not some namby-pamby "certificate of authenticity" crap like what Best Made probably gives you. It's more like, "here's a picture of the bearded Swedish viking dude who forged your axe, a list of what he ate for breakfast, and the pedigree of the tree from which the handle was made."
posted by Demogorgon at 9:25 AM on September 25, 2012


Well, I'll turn the axe derail into a general "people paying too much for perceived cachet" by pointing to the new "Agrarian" section of Williams-Sonoma, catering to those with an interest in gardening, canning, and other DIY-foodie-stuff.

People have been sending me links to the page for the past month because I do a lot of canning, but I took one look at their $265 hammered-copper jam pan, then looked at the $12 Ikea thing I've used with perfect success for 3 years now, and decided to mock the Agrarian line with every bit of the scorn it deserves.

(They also have special bags to compost leaves in that are made at a special factory in Sheffield. COME ON.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:51 AM on September 25, 2012


Look, the queen of France wants a hobby farm, you don't get her a used axe or dairy stool, you get the BEST DAIRY STOOL IN THE WORLD or so help me I will send you to Austria.
posted by The Whelk at 9:52 AM on September 25, 2012


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