NEW YORK — Real estate magnate Peter S. Kalikow, called one of the nation's richest men and one of the city's worst landlords, waltzed into the world of publishing with his tentative agreement Sunday to buy the financially troubled New York Post.
Kalikow's lack of experience in publishing and his reputation as one of the city's most vigorous developers fueled suspicions that he was more interested in the Post's waterfront site than in running the city's oldest continuously published daily.
But a spokesman firmly denied that Kalikow, 44, was shelling out $37 million solely for the riverfront property and says the Post will continue to roll off the presses as it has since Alexander Hamilton founded the newspaper in 1801.
Last year, Forbes magazine cited the developer as one of the 400 richest Americans.
Although Kalikow's development efforts have been hailed by some, the weekly Village Voice named him the city's worst landlord in 1986, largely because of his plans to force 2,000 residents from a complex on Manhattan's Upper East Side to make way for luxury housing on the choice tract. He has since scaled back the project.
Distressed housing advocates have spoken out against his so-called warehousing policy in which hundreds of apartments have been left vacant at a time when the city faces a shortage of moderately priced housing.
Kalikow has long been involved in politics, generously supporting candidates from both the Democratic and Republican parties, including Mayor Edward Koch, City Council President Andrew Stein and city Comptroller Harrison Goldin.
Married and the father of two children, Kalikow has also served on a variety of public- and private-sector advisory boards. In 1974, he was appointed to the state Department of Motor Vehicles Advisory Board and one year later to a state commission to study productivity in the public sector.
He also served as chairman and a member of the board of the mortgage insurance division of the state Mortgage Agency and as a special adviser to Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.).
Currently, he is a governor of New York Hospital in Manhattan.
He has been active in several Jewish organizations, receiving Israel's highest civilian award, the Peace Medal, in 1982 for his development contributions in Israel, including his work on the Dead Sea Canal Energy Project. Last year he was given the Humanitarian Award by the American Jewish Congress.
Kalikow, who heads H. J. Kalikow & Co., the real estate firm founded by his father, faces his biggest business challenge yet with his purchase of the Post.
The purchase agreement depends upon the cooperation of the newspaper's various unions. If the unions agree to Kalikow's still undisclosed set of conditions, he faces the mammoth challenge of turning the financial tide of a newspaper that lost $17 million last year.