Click the arrow above to play the Catalyst’s interview with real estate mogul Ben Mallah
Ben Mallah started out his multi-million dollar real estate career in California, picking up garbage for a break on his rent. At the time, Mallah was 22, stationed in Oakland, Calif. after a stint in Germany. The landlord was impressed by Mallah’s work ethic and put him in charge of the building. Soon, he was in charge of all of the buildings.
Now, more than thirty years later, the self-made real estate “tycoon” (Mallah rejects this designation), is one of the biggest investors in Tampa Bay, with a real estate portfolio worth more than $200 million.
The secret to his success is there is no secret, except that he works alone and doesn’t have to obey a board. Mallah says it’s nothing more than common sense, “You find something that has value in it, if it’s beat up, fix it up …I started out by buying boarded up crack houses in Oakland, Calif. and fixing them up with less than reputable people.”
Mallah’s larger than life character – literally, he’s 6-foot, 2-inches tall – is also the main focus of Life For Sale, a YouTube video documentary series that features his wheelings and dealings, cuss words, and pro-wrestler friends. The series, produced by Danny Jones, founder of Koncrete has more than 86,000 views. It portrays Mallah’s rough and tumble New York exterior and unfiltered personality, with a soft side.
The show’s description reads, “If a man had the mouth of Donald Trump, the personality of Larry David, and the presence of Don Corleone, you might have something close to Ben Mallah.” Throughout the show, Jones chronicles Mallah’s crude and sometimes brutish antics, how he scouts property, and the hardball conversations he has during deals. Jones sometimes masterminds these antics – once convincing Mallah to light a cigar with a hundred dollar bill.
Their friendship is clear, despite the constant cracks that Mallah makes at Jones’ expense, like poking fun at Jones’ life behind the camera and his affinity for ramen. “Danny is Dennis the Menace in real life… and I’m like the stupid neighbor next door that he’s always harassing,” Mallah laughs.
Mallah and Jones join publisher Joe Hamilton in the Catalyst studio, where Joe picks his brain over capital gains taxes, Tampa Bay development, and his predictions for the market over the next year. They cover Mallah’s specialty in affordable housing, how he manages his YouTube stardom and the legacy he hopes to leave.