Dr. Alexander Rovt is a successful real estate investor, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. His current net worth is estimated at $1.3 billion. He owns more than fifty investment properties, focusing primarily on New York City real estate. His most noteworthy property is 14 Wall Street, which he purchased in 2012 for $303 million in an all cash deal. Rovt has also expanded his holdings to include international investments in Austria, Ukraine, the Aria Hotel in Budapest, Hungary and Hotel X Toronto, a luxury hotel room with over 400 rooms.
Rovt was born in the town of Mukachevo, where he was raised by his parents. His father was a supervisor at a knitting factory and his mother was a homemaker. Rovt graduated from the Lviv Trade and Economic Institute in 1973 with a degree in economics and went on to receive a PhD in International Economics. Shortly afterwards, he emigrated to Hungary, where he took a job as a stock person in a produce store. He was quickly promoted to a seller and eventually became store manager. At twenty seven years old, Rovt became the head of the sales department for fruits and vegetables at a state-owned Hungarian distributor. In 1985, he and his wife Olga emigrated to the United States.
Dr. Alexander Rovt took his career to the next level when he began working with IBE Trade Corporation. IBE traded with governments that did not have ready access to hard currency, instead exchanging its goods for payment in commodities such as coffee and steel. Using connections within the Eastern bloc countries and knowledge of the fertilizer industry, Rovt was able to help IBE build its operations and it soon supplied the Soviet Union with goods in exchange for fertilizer. Eventually, he bought IBE and it began manufacturing nitrogen-based fertilizers for use in industrial farming. Over time, IBE controlled seventy percent of the ammonia trade in Russia and Ukraine. Rovt strategically added fertilizer plants throughout the 2000s, growing his group of businesses into an empire. In recent years, he has scaled down his fertilizer business assets overseas but maintains control of IBE Trade. Rovt has never bought a stock or bond, does not go into debt when making acquisitions, and prefers hard assets like real estate.
Wanting to help others succeed as he has, Dr. Alexander Rovt is a busy philanthropist. He endowed a school for Orthodox Jewish immigrants: the Zvi Dov Roth Academy in Brooklyn, named for his grandfather who was killed in th Holocaust. Rovt is Chairman of the Board of Trustees for One Brooklyn Health Systems. He sits on the Board of Governors for Touro College and University. Rovt is a trustee of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and acted as Vice Chairman of the NYC Board of Corrections. Mr. Rovt highly values family and friends and makes sure that regardless of his very busy schedule, he always has time for those close to him.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I have always preferred hard assets as opposed to the idea of stocks and bonds or letting someone else control my money. When I decided to diversify and start moving away from the fertilizer business with IBE Trade and move into real estate, it made sense that it would also be a good time to teach my sons and get them involved with the family business. Taking care of Olga and my sons is very important to me, and the best thing I could do for them was to get them involved in the family business. I don’t need to be the richest man in the world, but I do need to make sure my family is taken care of.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I find that what makes me the most productive is sticking to a schedule. Much of my day is spent on the phone, reading email, or being a part of conference calls. It is important for me to stay on track throughout the day and not to let a five minute conversation turn into an hour-long conversation. I try to be flexible when necessary. Sometimes, there are important or difficult negotiations that might take longer than I want them too, but they are worth it.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I definitely believe in planning and research. I have a few confidantes as well, whose opinions I trust. In general, though, it’s a matter of studying the figures and taking the time to do the math. Or, at times, with real estate purchases going and looking at the properties. Once I have an investment that I think is worthwhile, then it is a matter of planning what I am willing to pay for it and what my long term expectations are for it.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Honestly, I don’t get too excited about what is trending. I believe in long-term and steady investments. That is not to say I am uninterested in something new, but I need to know that it isn’t going to fade away or disappear as quickly as it appeared. I am excited about diversifying my own business by getting into new areas of investment such as health care and different types of housing. But I wouldn’t call those trends. Those are investments for the long term.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I stick to what I know. I don’t try to get involved in every new idea or try to constantly reinvent my business. I have seen many entrepreneurs who try to “diversify” in the sense that they want to become involved in every possible way to make money. But this isn’t productive because they are spending so much time and energy and money just to get started before they are trying something new.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Be patient. Trust in yourself. And make time for your family and loved ones. What is the saying? “You can only eat with one spoon.” There is no sense trying to be the richest man in the world. You can be very successful and not have to sacrifice a good family life.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I don’t think investing in the stock market is the best investment. I think that investing in the United States economy is the safest bet, but that is different from the stock market.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Evaluate myself and my business regularly. Publicly owned companies have to report on their business quarterly. I think this may cause them to make some poor decisions sometimes because they want to hit their numbers or to look better than they actually are, but the idea behind it is good. I look at my holdings and also at myself on a regular basis. I evaluate the strength of my business, but I also ask myself what I want and what I am willing to do for my business. When I decided I no longer wanted to oversee production and watch over what 100 plus employees were doing, I sold off production assets.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Having a long-term plan. Too often people sell when things have gone down because of fear or because they have borrowed money in the first place and they cannot wait for their investments to rise in value again. By having a long-term view, I have been able to stay patient and that alone has played a large part in being able to grow my business.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I have had some investment properties that have not been profitable or at least not as profitable as they should have been. But I also know that not every investment is going to be a winner or a big winner. By not putting all my money into one project though, I have been able to absorb any losses and still continue to grow.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I think anything that capitalizes on people’s desire for instant gratification is a sound investment. If you have the tech savvy to create something in the area of financial tech, mobile pay, buy now – pay later, you can definitely have a profitable business on your hands.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought my wife a bouquet of flowers and some chocolates as a surprise gift. It makes me happy to make my family happy.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I use a few different websites that follow real estate trends. They help me to keep an eye on what is on the minds of real estate agents and brokers, so that I will have an idea of what I can capitalize on when it comes time to make any deals.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The book of Proverbs. It is timeless wisdom for all areas of life.
What is your favorite quote?
“The one walking with the wise will become wise, but the one who has dealings with the stupid will fare badly.”
- Stick to what you know. Do your research and plan well.
- Conservative, time-honored, long-term investments pay off.
- Self-evaluation and objectivity are keys to productivity.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.