It’s 9 a.m. on a Friday morning and the Trump Towers are alive, particularly the 19th floor on Fifth Avenue, home to the rapidly rising B&B Group, a running $300 million fund and development firm. The modern-chic interior of the office and the resilient red wall of the foyer portray a certain confidence mimicked by Ilan Bracha, who is impeccably dressed in a tailored suit and red tie. With an income exceeding $5 million per year and current listings priced up to $12 million in New York City’s premier luxury residential locations, it is apparent that Bracha has secured his position as an eminent fixture in the market. Since 2006 he and his team (collectively known as The Bracha Group) have been ranked in the top 50 in team dollar volume sales by the Wall Street Journal, as well as being the No. 1 group at Prudential Douglas Elliman. Open spaces and vast views of the city skyline are evidently inspiration for the real estate tycoon and his partners.
“I came to New York to look at places and travel, but I had so much fun, I fell in love with the city, and we decided to stay.”
Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, Bracha has journeyed far from his homeland, but as the pictures on his wall of religious leader, friend, and confidante Rabbi Yishayahu Yosef Pinto indicate, his native soil still remains close to his heart. As he sits proudly in his office, it is hard to imagine Bracha in any other position. As his history tells, this is not the case, far from it. Serving as a commander in the Israeli army at the young age of only 18, Bracha learned the rules of survival, and those rules have guided him through his successes and failures. “I served for three years, commanding over 120 soldiers, and my job was to bring the kids home safe,” he recalls. “I was a kid. From this, I learned the value of life and relationships at a young age. I learned the value of people, regardless of what area they are from, rich or poor. I learned about missions, targets, commitment, and accountability. I don’t know how we all did it so young. I got what I could from it, and moved on.” His words are so rich with wisdom, it is easy to forget that Bracha is only in his early 30s, positioning him as one of the city’s young real estate elites.
After serving in the army, Bracha and a long time friend made the decision to come to New York City in search of inspiration, but it was love that Bracha found. “I came to New York to look at places and travel, but I had so much fun, I fell in love with the city, and we decided to stay.” Now a seasoned New Yorker, Bracha reflects on the jobs and follies of his early days in the city, from opening a bartending school to teach those willing to flip bottles like Tom Cruise in Cocktail, to the menial labor of working for a moving company. He laughs, “Walking five flights of stairs with a piano is an experience not easily forgotten.” His humble reflections complement the current successes of both businesses he heads, The Bracha Group of Prudential Douglas Elliman, and B&B Investment Group. His involvement in real estate stemmed from his moving industry days; an instinctual businessman, he saw problems in the communication, or lack thereof, between movers and customers. Bracha aimed to close that gap through the creation of his first business, a magazine tailored specifically for those in the city in need of moving services. Though the publication was short-lived, it was nationally recognized and was the perfect spur for Bracha to enter the world of business and ultimately real estate.
It was through the moving company that he met long time friend and mentor Lewis Kaye. “I met Louis, he gave me his card and said get licensed and call me,” Bracha reflects. “And I did.”
Working under the trained eye of Kaye, Bracha quickly learned the aspects of both residential and commercial real estate and, most importantly, how to wisely invest. After a mere four and a half years, Bracha was a top producer in the company, and the buzz of his success caught the ear and eye of Dottie Herman, CEO of Prudential Douglas Elliman. Bracha says, “Dottie heard about me through a friend and gave me an offer that I couldn’t refuse. It really brought me where I am today. Business tripled in the first year, so it was a great move. The owners kept pushing me and opening doors, allowing me to grow and get my name out there. Once I hit a certain number, they let me grow and merge within another group of the company. Now instead of nine, we have 18 people working.” He is referring to the Bracha Group, now one of the most powerful in the brokerage industry. He heads the branch with his indispensable partners Gilad Azaria, Lenny Sporn, and Meir Roth. Generally speaking, most brokers average three to five transactions a year; the Bracha Group averages 300 to 500. Bracha attributes this number to a highly acute level of organization, where everyone has room to optimize their area of expertise, creating a smoothly oiled selling machine. The team’s ability to listen to the market and share that accumulated knowledge with customers results in satisfaction of all parties. “I am always listening to little signs of the way the world works,” he says. “I try and connect myself to people with great mindsets and energy, because those are the people that have taught me rather than to run after money to run to a positive environment. You will never find success if you chase it. It should follow you.” The B&B Group’s West 57th Street project is evidence that success has not followed but rather chased Bracha. Along with partner Haim Binstock, Bracha purchased 16 to 18 West 57th Street for the prime rate of $60 million. The duo are working with the highly esteemed architect Frank Williams (who co-designed the nearby Four Seasons Hotel) to create an architecturally astounding 28-story, mixed-use structure complete with a hotel and retail options.
Running at two opposite spectrums of the real estate business would be an implausible feat for most, but then again, Bracha is no ordinary man. In addition to heading the Bracha Group, Bracha co-founded and is the co-president of B&B Private Investments. He welcomes the challenge, seeing it as a positive one. “Both groups are constantly growing. The greatest challenge is keeping things fresh and innovative in both directions, and balancing time. Right now, I am in back-to-back meetings all day with both companies. The people around me and the partners that are involved help create a balance; at the beginning of every day we analyze and again at the end of the day. We make goals, from daily, to weekly, to monthly-everything is organized so that I have time for my family. They are my number one priority.” It is evident that Bracha is first and foremost a family man. He attributes much of his success to his wife’s constant support and gleams with pride that they are expecting their third child.
With his brokerage group he satisfies his lust for trading, watching the market volume and transaction; with investments he fulfills his creative desires through fashioning deals. Bracha explains with thorough articulation how everything from fostering and financing a deal to developing and designing the construction is a true art form. “My partner, Haim Binstock, is a builder at heart. He not only loves to build, but he understands the value of cost. Together, we are powerful because we compliment each other, from bringing the deal forward, creating the deal, and making the deal a finished product. Binstock has 30 years of experience. It’s like having mentor for every step.”
With his record of successes, the future is bright for all of Bracha’s business endeavors. His ultimate goals are ambitious: to run a multi billion dollar fund, improve New York’s skyline, and to expand internationally. In the meantime, he is writing a book with the mission of teaching people how to put themselves in the right place, how to identify that place, and the right questions to ask. As a preview of the content, Bracha kindly shared his top three keys to real estate success: prime buildings, prime locations, and the confidence to invest. As he puts it, “Investing in real estate is an investment for life. A bad year won’t change that; it’s the best investment in the world.”