Bradford Cohen has experienced what many Americans only dream about — a shot at becoming Donald Trump's second made-for-television apprentice. Unfortunately for Cohen, an attorney specializing in criminal defense and personal injury cases in the Ft. Lauderdale area and a fledgling commercial real estate developer, his bid to win the grand prize on the addictive NBC-TV show, “The Apprentice,” was cut short. Cohen made it through the second installment of the 16-show season when The Donald lowered the boom in his now famous delivery: “Bradford, you're fired.”
“I would do it again,” says Cohen, 33, reflecting on his short stint on the show. “I enjoy the risk and the challenges. I wanted to learn how to build 90-story buildings.” In fact, Cohen says some land deals could arise as a result of the contacts he made on the show.
Cohen, who was selected initially as an alternate for the second season of “The Apprentice,” got off to a rousing start by leading his team to victory in the first episode. The task was to build a toy for Mattel that would appeal to boys ages 6 to 8. As the winning project manager, Cohen became exempt from being fired on the next episode. But when his team was licked by the competition in an ice cream sales contest, Cohen opted to waive that exemption to gain the team's trust. His move backfired, however. The Donald showed no mercy in sacking him. Trump thought Cohen was too soft by not using his exemption and indicated that such a move in the real world could lead a company into bankruptcy.
A native of Springfield, Mass., Cohen has long exhibited an entrepreneurial flair. When he was 22, he began buying low-income houses in Massachusetts. Typically, he would hold the properties for 18 months and then flip them for a 15% to 25% profit. When he headed to south Florida in the mid-1990s to attend Nova Southeastern Law School, he began to reinvest those profits in properties in Ft. Lauderdale and north Miami. Cohen now is developing single-family homes in west Florida.
Real estate is in Cohen's blood. His great uncle is Milton Cooper, CEO of the Kimco Realty Corp., a publicly traded real estate investment trust (REIT) based in New Hyde Park, N.Y. Kimco owns and operates one of the nation's largest portfolios of neighborhood and community shopping centers with interests in 705 properties totaling about 103 million sq. ft. of leasable space in 42 states, Canada and Mexico.
“I would love to start doing exactly what my Uncle Milton is doing, start purchasing more commercial real estate property,” says Cohen. “I'd like to start purchasing some smaller strip malls. In South Florida, I think that the growth down here is tremendous.”
The day after the episode aired showing his firing, Cohen says he received over 460 e-mails, many of them media requests for interviews. Local newspapers, national and regional magazines all wanted to know why he waived his exemption. He estimates the volume of e-mails has grown to 5,000 since the segment aired.
But there is a price to his fame. The contract that contestants sign to appear on the show is more than 100 pages. “It's longer than any real estate contract I've ever signed,” Cohen says with a laugh. “I've completed some commercial property [contracts], and this dwarfs them.”