For 15 years, David Koch lived at the world’s “richest building”

Brokerage sources speculate that Koch's unit may list for sale after construction is complete at his recently purchased UES townhouse

Aug.August 26, 2019 07:00 AM
Clockwise from left: John D. Rockefeller, Izzy Englander, Steven Mnuchin, David Koch, Jacqueline Bouvier, and William Zeckendorf (Credit: Getty Images and StreetEasy)

Clockwise from left: John D. Rockefeller, Izzy Englander, Steven Mnuchin, David Koch, Jacqueline Bouvier, and William Zeckendorf (Credit: Getty Images and StreetEasy)

Before paying $40 million for an Upper East Side townhouse last year, David Koch was among a handful of billionaires living at 740 Park Avenue.

Koch’s death at age 79, reported Friday, won’t necessarily trigger the sale of the sprawling co-op, which he transferred to a trust in 2016. But the purchase of the townhouse last year signaled that the industrialist and his wife, Julia, were moving on from the storied Park Avenue building.

But even as the market falters — a shift that’s hit co-ops particularly hard — brokers said buildings like 740 Park will never lose their luster.

“It’s still one of the most prestigious addresses in Manhattan with ceiling heights and grandeur-of-scale unmatched elsewhere,” said one high-end broker.

A string of recent sales bear that out, though even billionaires aren’t willing to overpay, even for the right address. In July, developer William Zeckendorf sold his 17th floor co-op for $29.5 million to Leni and Peter May, whose Trian Partners own Snapple and Arby’s. Zeckendorf paid $27 million for the two-bedroom in 2011.

Another era

Built in 1929, the Rosario Candela-designed building has just 31 units that have been home to some of the country’s most powerful families — and some of its wealthiest. It’s been said that its deep-pocketed buyers need to be worth at least $100 million to get past the board, where financing is a no-no.

“For 75 years, it’s been home to the most lusted-after addresses in the world,” according to the author Michael Gross, whose book on the apartment house dubs it the world’s “richest building.”

The “limestone fortress” was once home to John D. Rockefeller Jr. and a young Jacqueline Bouvier. Current residents include Ronald Lauder, the Blackstone Group’s Stephen Schwartzman, Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain and hedge fund manager J. Ezra Merkin. In 2014, hedge funder Israel Englander paid a record $71.2 million for the penthouse.

Still, the building’s cachet hasn’t shielded residents from their share of headaches in the past few years.

First there was a string of burglaries, resulting in the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of jewelry. (Some suspected an inside job, given how much security residents like Koch had.) Then in 2016, a fire broke out in a duplex unit owned by Ezra Merkin, a Bernie Madoff affiliate. Water and smoke damage forced some residents to vacate — including Koch and his family, who sheltered at a nearby hotel while their apartment was repaired. Not long after, pieces of the Art Deco building’s limestone façade came crashing to the ground, necessitating extensive repairs.

Luxury slowdown

Despite their tremendously wealthy residents, Manhattan co-ops have been stung by the shifting market. Over the past few years, more buyers chose condominiums over co-ops, which still impose stringent requirements (including no financing) on owners.

At 740 Park, which has just 31 units, there are currently two units for sale.

John Thain is asking $34.5 million for his penthouse, which first hit the market in April 2018 asking $39.5 million. And Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s duplex is asking $29.5 million, down from $32.5 million in September 2018.

“We’re in a very price sensitive market; that affects that building, as well,” said Hall Willkie, president of Brown Harris Stevens. He said even buyers with deep pockets don’t want to overpay. “People who have money have money for a reason,” he said.

For Koch, New York City’s second-richest resident behind former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the building was not his first New York City home, nor was it his last.

The Kansas-born billionaire, best known for backing conservative politics, paid approximately $17 million for a duplex at 740 Park in 2004, records show. Koch transferred his co-op at 740 Park to a trust, the DHK Real Estate Trust, in 2016.

Brokerage sources speculated that there may be construction at the 36-foot wide townhouse on East 76th Street he and his wife bought last year. Sources said his estate may look to sell the co-op after the mansion is complete.

Some of the most frequent brokers at 740 Park are Sotheby’s International Real Estate’s Serena Boardman; BHS’ John Burger and Compass’ Kyle Blackmon.

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