In 2008, the New York Observer crowned Leighton Candler as the city’s “new co-op queen,” after she racked up a series of eight-figure deals on the Upper East Side’s Gold Coast. But the Corcoran Group agent is now in line for an even grander title after selling the city’s priciest condominium for $100.5 million.
The buyer, Dell Technologies founder Michael Dell, inked a contract for the Billionaires’ Row condominium back in 2012 and the sale closed two years later. Dell’s identity — and Candler’s role — was revealed on Thursday by the Wall Street Journal.
Although she’s flown under the radar these past few years, Candler’s record-setting One57 deal puts her in an exclusive club. She joins other record-setting brokers like Corcoran’s Carrie Chiang, who represented David Wildenstein in the $79.5 million sale of the Upper East Side commercial townhouse last year; Sotheby’s International’s Serena Boardman, who brought a $77.5 million buyer in 2015 to Woody Johnson’s co-op apartment, where she had a co-exclusive with Brown Harris Stevens’ John Burger; Brown Harris Stevens‘ Paula Del Nunzio, who listed the Harkness mansion when it sold in 2006 for $53 million; and Compass’s Kyle Blackmon, who represented Sanford Weil when he sold his 15 Central Park West condo for $88 million in 2012. (Blackmon was at BHS at the time.)
Discreet and blessed with a sizable Rolodex, Candler has been a quiet force among the city’s most elite brokers for years. A native of Atlanta, she’s been described as the epitome of a Southern lady. But her upbringing wasn’t all charmed. Her father — a great-grandson of Coca-Cola Company founder Asa Candler — went bankrupt in 1969 and in the 1980s was convicted of passing $3.8 million in bad checks.
In 1979, Candler moved to New York to attend Parsons School of Design. She lived in Paris for three years, but returned to the city to work for interior designer Elisabeth Draper.
“I had to get work,” Candler told the Observer. “And I took that seriously.”
Still, her father’s connections ran deep. “Daddy had done business with a lot of people in New York,” she said, noting that the Carnegies were friends, as was Huntington Hartford, heir to the A&P fortune. Meanwhile, she was building her own contact list, attending parties with the artist Saul Steinberg and publisher Malcom Forbes.
Candler was working for legendary broker Edward Lee Cave when Hall Willkie hired her at BHS more than two decades ago. “She came in wearing a pink Chanel suit,” he recalled. “This beautiful creature in all pink looking like a million dollars. She had me right there.” But it wasn’t just her looks. “She’s a very talented broker. She has great contracts and she’s a sweetheart,” Willkie said. “She’s a force. She’s a formidable competitor.”
In 2001 Candler jumped to Corcoran, where she established a track record for closing massive deals with little drama or ego. “She is one of the best,” said Sotheby’s Nikki Field, who described Candler as “top caliber” and “no nonsense.”
Corcoran CEO Pam Liebman said Candler’s global client network is unmatched. “Leighton is the embodiment of discretion and does not speak about her clients or her achievements,” she said. “She doesn’t need to.”
Candler did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Over the years, some of Candler’s biggest deals include selling conservative billionaire David Koch’s apartment at 1040 Fifth Avenue in 2006 for $26 million, and the decadent penthouse owned by Joan Rivers for $24 million in 2015.
On the buy-side, Candler has represented low-key but powerful deal-makers like a hedge fund manager and his wife, who paid $46 million for a penthouse at 1060 Fifth Avenue in 2008 — the priciest co-op deal on record at the time. Six months later, Candler sold it for them for $48.8 million. “She has near reverence for these really splendid prewar co-ops,” the hedge funder’s wife told the Observer.
Though the bulk of deals involve people purchasing homes to live in, she’s increasingly working with investors who have “different criteria in mind,” she told Leaders magazine in 2016. “We have to know what the rate of return is, how to secure appropriate financing for a project, and be responsible for advising on the build-outs to maximize returns.”
Candler herself is not a huge spender, telling the Observer that she doesn’t buy artwork, jewelry, horses or cars. For years, she rented a studio in a rental building on Central Park South. “I live in small places,” she said in 2008. “I love other people to have those apartments… I love coming back to my little nest as long as I can look out and see everything.”
Two years later, that changed. Candler was among the holdout rent-stabilized tenants who accepted a buyout offer of more than $1 million from Vornado Realty Trust, which is now building 220 Central Park South at the site. Candler’s $100.47 million record at One57 is expected to fall when one or more pricier units close at 220 Central Park South.