The nation of Qatar has pulled the plug on a $90 million purchase of an Upper East Side townhouse at 19 East 64th Street, putting an end to what would have been the city’s priciest commercial townhouse deal, The Real Deal has learned.
In January, Qatar, represented by Douglas Elliman’s Oren and Tal Alexander, entered into contract to buy the 20,500-square-foot townhouse from the Wildenstein family with the intention of using it as a consulate, as TRD reported. At the time, the Alexanders said the contract was for nine figures — which means at least $100 million — but a source familiar with the property confirmed yesterday that the contract was for $90 million.
The Wildensteins, who are prominent New York City art dealers, were being represented by the Corcoran Group’s Carrie Chiang. They were using the townhouse as an art gallery, but it now lies vacant, and questions remain as to whether they will look for a new buyer.
The closing was slated for late June. Shortly before then, however, lawyers representing Qatar approached the Wildensteins and indicated that the deal could die, according to a well-placed source. A new closing date was set for late July, but once again the Qataris’ lawyers expressed that their clients were not going to complete the acquisition.
“The deal did not close as scheduled,” a spokesperson for the Wildensteins told TRD yesterday, but declined to comment further.
When approached by TRD last month, Oren Alexander said that he was “patiently waiting for closing.” He cited certificate of occupancy issues as a reason for the delay, but insisted that the deal would be sealed in July. Chiang didn’t respond to requests for comment.
This week, both Alexander brothers did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The deal, which they aggressively publicized when it went into contract, would have been the largest single sale of their careers.
Ahmed Yousef Al-Rumaihi, consul general for the state of Qatar in New York, told TRD in a statement in January that the property was in “move-in condition.” But he couldn’t be reached for comment this week.
What caused the Qataris to get cold feet remains unclear. It’s unlikely to be an issue of money – the nation’s sovereign wealth fund has about $170 billion in assets under management, according to the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute. And Qatari royals have shown a penchant for buying trophy Manhattan real estate, including the $35 million Ellen Biddle Shipman Residence at Beekman Place, a $47 million townhouse at 22 East 71st Street formerly owned by Aby Rosen, and multiple apartments at Gary Barnett’s One57, according to news reports.
But sources speculated the Qatari government may be looking to lower its profile, in the light of severe criticism heaped against it after a report concluded that hundreds of migrant construction workers have died due to poor working conditions in the oil-rich nation. A recent ESPN documentary estimated that, at the current rate, more than 4,000 migrant workers will die by 2022, by the time Qatar hosts the FIFA World Cup.
In anticipation of the closing, the Wildensteins had already vacated the art gallery and cleaned out the space, a source said. It’s uncertain what the fate of the property will be, and the Wildensteins’ spokesperson declined to comment about whether the family would pursue litigation.