He was friends with Hillary Clinton. He sold apartments to Jeff Bezos. He spent years advocating on behalf of LGBT Americans.
And after 72 years on this earth, New York City power broker and philanthropist Robby Browne has died. Browne had struggled for more than three years with multiple myeloma, and ultimately died on April 11 after testing positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago, according to the New York Times.
Browne finished his career at Corcoran, where he led a top-ranked team. But his career spanned decades, and at various points, intersected with some of the most powerful people on the planet.
Browne was born on March 11, 1948, in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1971, he graduated from Princeton with a degree in art history, but not before acquiring a reputation as a campus partier, a longtime friend told the Times. He later moved to Washington and sold travel tours, before eventually earning an MBA degree from Harvard Business School.
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After Harvard, Browne moved to New York City in the late 1970s and became a fixture at Studio 54 — the famous club at the center of the city’s disco scene. He considered a handful of careers before finally entering real estate as an agent with Halstead.
Over the years, Browne sold properties to clients with ever-higher profiles. According to the Times, he worked with Alec Baldwin, Uma Thurman and Denzel Washington, among others. The New York Post reported that he sold multiple units to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and that the parties at his Central Park West apartment were “legendary.”
He also reportedly hosted Hillary Clinton at his second home in Bridgehampton.
In addition to elaborate parties, Browne was also known for his philanthropic work and fundraisers. Among other things, he supported the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, GLAAD and SAGE, the latter of which works with older LGBT people. He also launched a nonprofit called Toys for Tots, which provided toys for underprivileged children.
Browne joined Corcoran in 2002, and the next year closed a deal for a $43 million penthouse — one of the most expensive residential sales ever in Manhattan at the time. Browne continued closing major deals over the ensuing years, earning him numerous accolades.
Doctors diagnosed Browne with multiple myeloma in 2016. Friends told the Times that he declined to go to the hospital after recently testing positive for COVID-19 because he felt he would be wasting a ventilator.
Browne’s death prompted an outpouring of condolences. In an Instagram post, Corcoran called Browne’s death “heartbreaking.”
“To know Robby was to love him,” the post added. “He was a light that shined brightly — not only at Corcoran but across our industry, and to all who had the opportunity to meet him.”
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Today is a difficult, heartbreaking day for our Corcoran family as we learn of the passing of our very own Robby Browne. To know Robby was to love him. He was a light that shined brightly — not only at Corcoran but across our industry, and to all who had the opportunity to meet him. As we grieve this immeasurable loss, our thoughts and love are with his family, friends, and all of those close to Robby Browne.
In a statement, GLAAD also mourned Browne’s loss and said that he “was known for his unforgettable charm and dedication to helping others, and we will continue to celebrate and honor the profound impact he left on the LGBTQ community.” GLAAD also called Browne “one of the most renowned residential agents in New York real estate.”