It’s not often you see a luxury home on Fifth Avenue hit the auction block.
But relatives of the late Broadway theater producer James M. Nederlander are hoping the tactic will draw out a buyer for his estate’s full-floor condo at 838 Fifth Avenue, which has been on and off the market for more than a year.
It’s a risky move. The auction, scheduled for Feb. 19, will have no reserve price, meaning the highest bid will be the winning bid.
“The list price is about $16 million and change,” said Trayor Lesnock, the owner and founder of Platinum Luxury Auctions, the Miami-based firm organizing the sale. “Is that going to be the price? I wouldn’t think so; achieving a list price in my industry is a rare thing. Is it going to be north of $10 million? A very modest guess … probably.”
The home, which measures more than 4,500 square feet and takes up the entire 10th floor, has three bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms and a glossy wooden library overlooking Central Park. Nederlander, who died in 2016, once lived there with his wife Charlene, who died in 2019.
Auctions are rare in New York’s hobbled luxury market, but the pandemic has put even more strain on deals, forcing sellers to get creative. In November, London-based investor Arnon Katz also organized a no-reserve auction with Concierge Auctions to sell his penthouse apartment at 150 Central Park South.
“I’m very optimistic in my approach,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “I believe there is a place for very unique high-end properties in the market.”
Katz later rescheduled the December auction for Jan. 28, with a $19.5 million reserve.
The Nederlander home was first listed in October 2019 with Douglas Elliman’s Daniela Kunen for $27.5 million. Then in June, it was listed by Brown Harris Stevens brokers Mark J. Cohen and Carol Cohen with an $18.9 million asking price, later dropped to $16.9 million.
The brokers took it off the market in December and Platinum’s Lesnock said they are now assisting his team with the auction, an arrangement that will earn them a commission. Lesnock declined to say what the breakdown would be. Mark J. Cohen referred questions to Platinum.
Lesnock said his firm held talks with the Nederlander family for a year before they decided to move forward with the plan. One of the family members had sold another property by auction in Miami, which had convinced them the strategy worked, he added.
The live auction will be held at the condo next month and will be open only to registered bidders. Anyone bidding from overseas will need to have a representative present, Lesnock said.
And other than a kind of force-majeure clause that would let the seller back out before the auction begins, there is no way to abandon the auction if the results disappoint.
“Once the auction begins then it proceeds to completion,” Lesnock said, “and the seller doesn’t have the ability to stop it, to bid, to otherwise interfere with the process.”