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Empire: A Tale of Obsession, Betrayal, and…

Empire: A Tale of Obsession, Betrayal, and the Battle for an American Icon

by Mitchell Pacelle

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Pacelle knows how to define characters, setup a situation, and tell a story. He has done all of this well in Empire, yet I did not finish the book. About halfway through, I realized that no matter how compelling he tried to make the characters and their plight, in the end, I just didn't care who owned the Empire State Building. In the end, he's telling a story about a bunch of rich people who are trying to outdo each other. ( )
  meacoleman | Dec 7, 2010 |
Rosebud. The iconic Empire State Building attracts apes and fools. The building is only a dream, a figment, a red herring and a symbol in this appalling story of a power struggle among the filthy rich, which only benefits the packs of lawyers that feed on the outsized whims and ego of people who are sheltered from being refused when they throw money at a problem. Tiny issues cause giant tantrums (not really appealing to read about). Wealth truly removes most barriers to misbehave.

The funny thing about this story is the effect, globalization has on the local crooks and clans. The free flow of capital across borders injects new players into the local real estate scene who have the money but lack the knowledge to succeed in this new environment. The battle for the Empire State Building pits three New York real estate families (Helmsley, Wien/Malkin and Trump) against a decaying, shifty Japanese real estate mogul and his various offspring. The Japanese protagonists end up in prisons in Japan, France and the United States offering a glimpse into the different choices these countries make in taking care of criminals.

Overall, it's much ado about nothing that only exposes the ugly sides of filthy rich people. ( )
1 vote jcbrunner | Oct 24, 2010 |
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How many millions might a man be willing to spend to raise his ego a quarter mile high?
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0471403946, Hardcover)

Each day over 4,000 people take the elevator up to the observatory of the Empire State Building to catch a minute of glory. What almost none of them have known--until now--is just how many people have fought to own outright the crown jewel beneath them, and the chaos that these trophy hunters have caused. "Over the years," writes Wall Street Journal reporter Mitchell Pacelle, "the Empire State Building had exerted an almost magnetic pull over a certain kind of man, the kind who once had nothing and now had everything." The construction of the Empire State Building was a $50 million roll of the dice by a failed political candidate, who took on the impossible task of filling 80 floors with paying tenants in the midst of the Depression just to win the race for skyline supremacy. Thirty years later, the Prudential Company gutted the building's profit potential by leasing it to real estate magnates Larry Wien and Harry Helmsley for 114 years. Their heirs, Peter Milkin and Leona Helmsley, would end up locked in a bitter embrace. Then, in 1991, Prudential decided to sell the tower, and the building entered its most bizarre period as a group of eccentric billionaires fought to control it.

Pacelle masterfully tells the story of Hideki Yokoi, a Japanese businessman with a shady past who became obsessed with the American icon during an $80 million shopping spree. Rebuffed in his pursuit by Prudential, he finally landed the building with the help of his illegitimate daughter, a front man, shell companies, and a fair number of lies--but not for long. Convinced that his daughter had stolen the building from him, he initiated a bizarre family feud that landed two people in jail. Add Donald Trump to the mix (and a plan to upscale the building with luxury condos, classy restaurants, and a hotel) and an epic legal war began between Trump and his nemesis Leona Helmsley, holder of the precious lease. Full of mind-boggling twists and betrayals, Pacelle's book is a priceless cautionary tale about ego, greed, and vengeance, and the inevitable bust that follows every bubble. --Lesley Reed

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:27 -0400)

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It is the most famous skyscraper in the world--a towering edifice whose silhouette defines New York's skyline. Each year, millions of visitors from all over the world flock to its upper reaches to take in its dramatic views. Yet few are aware of the triumphs and tragedies that have played out in its storied corridors. Ever since it was erected during the Great Depression, the Empire State Building has been coveted by ambitious, self-made men who have gone to great lengths to call it their own. It has carried some of them to prominence, others to the precipice of financial ruin. For a few, the building has exacted an even higher toll--costing them friends, family, and even their freedom.… (more)

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