February 21, 2008

Howard Milstein ’73 Receives Honor as C.U. Entrepreneur of Year

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From the real estate market to the media realm, Howard P. Milstein ’73 has distinguished himself has an entrepreneur and his accomplishments have not gone unnoticed.
On Feb. 5, the University named Milstein, co-chairman, president and CEO of Emigrant Savings Bank, the 2008 Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year. The award, given annually to a graduate of the University, honors distinguished individuals considered to exemplify entrepreneurship.
“He has done a number of remarkable things,” said John Jaquette, executive director of Entrepreneurship@Cornell, the program that gives out the award. According to Jaquette, the process of choosing Entrepreneur of the Year entails a committee of students, faculty and alumni who call for nominations of Cornell alumni.
Chris Wilkerson, founder, president and CEO of High Bar Capital and chair of the Entrepreneur of the Year selection committee, said that there was a combination of things that led to selecting Milstein for the honor.
Wilkerson said the biggest driving factors included “[Milstein’s] continued and repeated success in running his business” in addition to his “focus on the community.”
Jaquette referenced what he believes are some of Milstein’s greatest achievements, which include revolutionizing a major real estate company, founding a cable television station and creating a new bank.
Milstein, who studied economics at Cornell before earning joint degrees in law and business at Harvard University, is currently the managing partner of Milstein Properties, alongside his father, Paul, and brother, Edward. The company owns residential and commercial properties in New York City, New Jersey, Connecticut, Niagara Falls, Washington D.C., Chicago and across the globe.
Milstein also ventured into the realm of media, founding Liberty Cable, a small cable company that made efforts to compete with Time Warner Cable in the early ’90s.
In 2003, the Milstein family bought out its minority partners in Emigrant Savings Bank for $811 million. The move granted the Milsteins full control of the company it had acquired in 1986. Milstein later created the New York Private Bank & Trust as a holding company of Emigrant Savings Bank in 2005.
“[Milstein] revolutionized the private banking industry,” Prof. Zachary Shulman, management, said.
NYPB&T had assets totaling over $14 million as of Dec. 31 and is currently the 45th largest bank holding company in the United States, according to the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council.
While nominees for the award must exhibit strong business credentials, a candidate’s contributions to society are also taken into account in the selection process, Jaquette explained.
“There is a set criteria in terms of social responsibility,” he stated.
While it is not required that alumni are active members of the Cornell community, Wilkerson confirmed that one’s involvement in the University is “one of several things we look at.”
Many of the award’s past recipients have been active benefactors of Cornell.
Milstein has served as a trustee of Weill Cornell Medical College for over 20 years in addition to serving as trustee, trustee emeritus and presidential councilor of the University. He has held positions on various University committees and continues to be a major benefactor. In 2000, the Howard Milstein Scholarship in Arts and Sciences was established, which is an annual scholarship granted to students who display academic accomplishment and financial need.
Milstein Hall, the proposed newest addition to the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, will be named in honor of Milstein’s father, Paul.
While Wilkerson declined to provide the names of the other nominees for the award, he said the selection process was difficult.
“I am consistently amazed at the caliber of nominees,” Wilkerson said. In the three years that Wilkerson has sat on the selection committee, he said he has seen nominees with exceedingly impressive credentials, which “makes the decision increasingly difficult.”
Milstein will deliver the keynote address at the Entrepreneurship@Cornell Celebration on Apr. 10 at 4:30 p.m. in Statler Auditorium. Jaquette said he could predict that Milstein will speak about the “significant challenges students [will] face in the future [in order] to make a difference in the world.”
According to Jaquette, Milstein “has [made a difference] in many ways.”
Jaquette also expects Milstein to address some of the current economic issues he wrote about in a contributed column for The New York Times on Feb. 6.
“The $145 billion economic stimulus package that President Bush is encouraging Congress to pass, with its tax refunds for individuals and tax cuts for bus­in­­ess investments, may help relieve some of the symptoms of the country’s current financial trouble, but it does not address the most important economic problem we face,” Milstein wrote.
Milstein instead proposed that the federal government should work with American banks holding subprime mortgages and “guarantee the principal of the mortgages for 15 years,” which “would instantly give the lend­ing banks new capital.”