In 2008, Meir Laufer, a small-time New York real estate developer, was taking a spin aboard the London Eye, the 443-foot ferris wheel on the banks of the Thames, when he decided on a scheme: He would bring a similarly enormous ferris wheel to New York, but make it even bigger. When he got back stateside, he divulged his grand ambition to a colleague, Eric Kaufman, whose main business was converting condos. Two years after inspiration struck, however, Laufer and Kaufman were still having trouble getting their project off the ground. They had tried to secure a plot at South Street Seaport, then Governors Island, but were rebuffed by the city on both fronts. Laufer and Kaufman were looking for someone who could add gravitas to their scrappy outfit and make their dream a reality. So they arranged a meeting with Rich Marin, a financier who had just been canned by Africa Israel USA, the investment fund of Israeli diamond magnate Lev Leviev. In a stroke of prodigiously poor timing, Leviev’s firm had gone large on American real estate in 2007, just as the market was starting to crater, ultimately bringing the financial industry—and the global economy—down with it. The… Read full this story
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