Steve Roth won’t update the street on 220 CPS sales

Vornado chief is keeping figures under wraps after slow quarter

TRD New York /
Feb.February 18, 2016 08:00 AM

A problem shared is a problem halved? Not so in the high-stakes world of luxe condo development.

Vornado Realty Trust CEO Steven Roth refused to give investors in his company an up-to-date count on the number of apartments that have sold at 220 Central Park South, the trophy residential tower rising on Billionaires’ Row.

Asked by an analyst during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call to update the 53-to-54 percent sold figure Roth provided for the building at the end of the third quarter of 2015, he said he’d rather not, for “competitive reasons.”

“I don’t think it’s good for our business to give these kinds of minute details,” he said. “It doesn’t help us. It hurts us competitively in the market. The market is slowing. It’s slowing for everybody. It’s slowing a little bit less for us, but of course it’s slowing for us as well.”

One reassurance he did offer? “We’re not going backwards.”

He also reminded investors that Vornado has already sold enough of 220 CPS’ 118 units to cover its initial costs. The property is projected to cost a whopping $5,000 per square foot to build.

Roth, who last year touted the fact that the building had commitments for more than $1.1 billion in units in just six weeks, is just the latest developer to shy away from disclosing sales information.

Developers of two of the city’s other most audacious residential skyscrapers — 432 Park Avenue and One57 — similarly kept the curtains drawn by using their own in-house brokers and by keeping their listings out of the public eye, declining to list them on listing databases such as StreetEasy. Extell Development, the firm behind One57, hasn’t released an updated sales figure since 2013, when it declared the building 70 percent sold.

“The street is trying to ascertain how he’s doing,” Olshan Realty’s Donna Olshan said of Roth’s reticence. “Absent any data, they can’t make that determination. “The lack of transparency does not translate well. Consumers want to know where they stand. That’s the world we live in now.”

Roth did admit that the market has not been kind in recent months to the high-end residential sector in New York.

“The for-sale condo business has dramatically slowed at all price points and in all neighborhoods,” he said. “There seems to be a condo project on every block developed by undercapitalized, over-leveraged players.”

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