The Big Idea on Donny Deutsch

Haute Living New York had the chance to sit down with one of New York’s most eligible bachelors. Not only is he sexy, charming, brilliant and successful, he now is famous for his show on CNBC, “The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch.”

By Nicole Kotovos
Photography by Scott Rudd


Deutsch lives in the posh penthouse at the Trump Park Avenue, which he rents from pal Donald Trump while his 13,000-sqare-foot limestone on the Upper East Side is undergoing renovations. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch and New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez are among his many celebrity neighbors. The penthouse has a wrap-around terrace with a magnificent view of the New York skyline. The pad also houses one of the most eclectic art collections, including works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst. But his favorites are the paintings done by his father, David Deutsch. A visitor might mistake his place as an art gallery, but it is what Deutsch and his American bulldog, Betty, call home for now.

Deutsch is the perfect interview for the launch of Haute Living New York because of his immense love of New York, its energy and its people. “People say they live here to take advantage of the museums and all of that, but I just want to know they are here. I don’t take advantage of them; I just want to know I can,” Deutsch said, quoting E.B. White.

Deutsch could travel anywhere in the world, but he chooses to spend most of his time in New York and the Hamptons. He goes out to eat every night and frequents the same restaurants 80 percent of the time. His favorite spots include Nobu, Ilios, Nicolas, Primolas, Mr. Chow, Da Silvano. The other 20 percent of the time, he’ll try a different restaurant. But you’ll never find Deutsch on the Upper West Side. “There are certain places that if you don’t live in, you never go to – like the Upper West Side,” Deutsch said. “I could go 20 years before going to a restaurant up there,” Deutsch.

As for family, Deutsch is still single but, he says, it’s not for lack of trying. “I have been married twice with two fantastic women – just not right for me – and I will be married one more time,” he said. “I know the third time will be the charm for me.” But over the years, Deutsch has become very protective of himself – and for the right reasons. His life is a public topic, making it harder for him to meet someone. “When I meet a girl now, I am coming pre-sold. She knows who I am and what I do, my net worth. … You have to make sure [the women] are there for right reasons,” Deutsch said.

When he has free time, Deutsch exercises by running in the streets of New York. He usually runs north on Park Avenue from 59th Street to 106th Street and then back down on Madison or Fifth avenues. Deutsch avoids running in the park because he finds people more interesting than nature. “What’s greater than running and looking at people?” Deutsch said.

Deutsch does not spend his money on toys. He enjoys investing his money in the financial markets, art and real estate as opposed to fast cars, luxury yachts and planes. He recently bought two real estate holdings in two of the best locations, on Fifth Avenue and Gin Lane. “When I am buying real estate, I am buying for life. If it’s prime real estate and you are not looking to flip it in six months, you can’t go wrong,” Deutsch said. “They are not building any more oceans; they are not building any more Fifth Avenues.”

His favorite building in New York is the Chrysler Building. “There is no close second. It’s just so regal, so timeless, so elegant and powerful,” Deutsch said. “It represents all that is great about old New York, and yet it still feels so contemporary in the skyline. It’s just magical.” Deutsch also has strong feelings about the World Trade Center and thinks ground zero should be made into a park. “The U.S. will always be a target, and if I was running a company I would not move my people there.” By turning it into a park, everybody would be able to enjoy it – and not for commercial reasons, Deustch said.

Everything Deutsch has pursued has become a success. This native New Yorker is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton school of business. During his childhood, his father started a small advertising agency and hired his son in 1983. “I was a member of the lucky sperm club,” Deutsch said.

Deutsch’s father prepared to sell the company in 1984. Deutsch decided to take over and transformed the small advertising firm into one of the nation’s top 10 agencies, worth $2.8 billion. Many say Deutsch is the father of the advertising world, a compliment he does not deny. Deutsch attributes his success to a combination of things. He has always surrounded himself with brilliant people who have extraordinary visions and goals. He is not afraid of failure and manages to use both parts of his brain – the business side and the creative side- an ability that he says is unusual. Having already achieved such immense success at an early age, Deutsch is always looking for the next challenge. In 2000, Deutsch sold the firm – he remains chairman – and now devotes most of his time to his hit show on CNBC, The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch.

For Deutsch, the switch to television was easy. He is, in fact, what some would call a natural. On his new show, he provides a comfortable environment for his guests. His trick is simple: He does not think of himself as a journalist. Instead, he sees himself as a business peer having a conversation with another businessman. He also makes a conscious effort to use the pronoun “I” during his interviews, which allows for a conversation with more opinion.

So far his guest list has included Jay-Z, Bill Gates, Ted Turner – who recited a love poem – former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey and Oprah Winfrey. Deutsch also has interviewed Larry King, one of his idols. Deutsch discusses major issues with his guests and, more importantly, how to solve those issues. One of the themes of Deutsch’s show is putting this country’s great business minds together to solve the world’s problems. “It’s about setting a vision and bringing it to fruition [by] putting the right people in place,” he said. “They are people who know how to build consensus. They get people to work together toward a common goal. It’s what politics is all about.” And, as if Deutsch is not busy enough with his TV project, he has also written a book, Often Wrong, Never in Doubt; produced the movie Awake with Jessica Alba and Hayden Christensen; and sits on the board of Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson Foundation.

In the next five to 10 years, Deutsch hopes to have a family and to be mayor of New York. He had a taste of politics in 1992 as a lead member in the Clinton/Gore communications team. “I love communications; I love television. I don’t want to leave that, [but] I love public service, so it will be somewhere in that space,” Deutsch said.