‘The Year of the Penthouse’

In the top 10 deals of 2012, residential sales broke records

Town Residential founder Andrew Heiberger recently dubbed 2012 the “Year of the Penthouse,” due to the recent stream of record-breaking deals. The year started with the now-famous $88 million sale of a penthouse at 15 Central Park West, and before 2012 was done, city-wide records for condo, co-op and townhouse sales had all been broken — some more than once.

In 2012, there were 10 sales over $30 million, compared to six in 2011, according to data from the listings website StreetEasy. And at $88 million, 2012’s most expensive sale dwarfs 2011’s $48 million record and 2007’s $50 million top deal.

Brokers attributed 2012’s jaw-dropping prices to limited inventory and a seemingly insatiable appetite for high-end product.

Shaun Osher, CEO of the residential brokerage CORE, said mammoth sales such as the one at 15 Central Park West are seen as less and less of an anomaly.

“They’re not run-of-the-mill, but they’re definitely becoming a lot more frequent,” Osher said.

Read on for a closer look at the priciest closed sales of 2012 as of press time.

15 Central Park West, PH20

15 Central Park West, PH20

Closing date: Feb. 15, 2012

Price: $88 million

In a deal that set the stage for a year of mammoth residential sales, former Citigroup Chairman and CEO Sanford Weill closed on the sale of his 15 Central Park West apartment in February for a record-breaking $88 million. The closing price, almost double the $43.7 million Weill paid for the apartment in 2007, made international headlines and sent shockwaves through the residential market for the rest of the year. The deal was the priciest residential property ever sold in the city, a record previously held by J. Christopher Flowers’ 2006 purchase of the Harkness Mansion at 4 East 75th Street.

Kyle Blackmon

The 6,744-square-foot penthouse spread was purchased by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, a philanthropist and the owner of AS Monaco Football Club. Kyle Blackmon of Brown Harris Stevens represented the seller in the deal, while BHS’s Maria Torresy brought the buyer. BHS declined to comment on the deal.

It was first reported that Rybolovlev bought the apartment for his equestrian daughter Ekaterina. But his wife, Elena, with whom he was engaged in a tumultuous divorce battle at the time, later alleged in a lawsuit that the billionaire had purchased the apartment in his daughter’s name in order to hide assets in anticipation of their divorce proceedings.

Weill has reportedly since moved to a sixth-floor apartment in the same building.

Rybolovlev’s record, however, is already set to be broken, with the expected closing of a $95 million deal reportedly in contract at Extell Development’s One57 at 157 West 57th Street. Closings at One57 are set to commence in the summer of 2013.

50 Central Park West

50 Central Park South, #30/31

Closing date: June 11, 2012

Price: $70 million

Serena Boardman

In June, casino mogul Steve Wynn paid $70 million for a duplex at the Ritz-Carlton at 50 Central Park South listed by Blackmon of Brown Harris Stevens. Wynn bought the apartment from Christopher Jeffries, the founding partner of Millennium Partners, which had developed the condominium portion of the 35-story hotel in 2002. Jeffries reportedly paid $22 million for the apartment upon its completion.

The 10,882-square-foot duplex, on the 30th and 31st floors, previously served as the hotel’s ballroom. The upper floor has a library, media room, dining room and kitchen, while four bedrooms are on the lower floor.

Serena Boardman of Sotheby’s International Realty represented Wynn in the deal. Neither broker responded to a request for comment.

For Wynn, the purchase was the end of a long search for Manhattan digs. In late 2010, he changed his mind about his penthouse at the Plaza, flipping it for $24.4 million after owning it for just six months. Wynn, who was not available for comment, reportedly then spent close to two years touring trophy listings all over the city before settling on the Ritz spread.

785 Fifth Avenue

785 Fifth Avenue, #PH

Closing date: Nov. 8, 2012

Price: $54 million

Music industry legend David Geffen broke records in November when he paid $54 million for the duplex penthouse above his existing apartment at 785 Fifth Avenue. The seller was singer and socialite Denise Rich. The deal beat out the sale of Courtney Sale Ross’s apartment at 740 Park Avenue earlier in the year (see below) to become the highest-priced co-op sale in the city’s history.

Noble Black

The 12,000-square-foot, seven-bedroom apartment, which includes a full recording studio, had been listed for $65 million by the Corcoran Group’s Noble Black, Chazz Levi and Bonnie Pfeifer Evans. Before being picked up by Geffen, the spread was reportedly eyed by the prime minister of Qatar.

Black declined to comment on the identity of the buyer or seller but said: “What was remarkable about the apartment was just its sheer size. The huge entertaining spaces upstairs were just fantastic.”

He added: “The buyer was already very familiar with the building but liked the fact that this apartment had the high ceilings and a tremendous amount of outdoor space. He definitely had his eye on it for a while.”

Geffen reportedly has no plans to combine the unit with his own apartment downstairs. The New York Post said he would likely complete an extensive renovation of Rich’s former digs before moving in and selling his other apartment.

Deborah Grubman and David Dubin of Corcoran, who represented Geffen in the deal, declined to comment.

740 Park Avenue

740 Park Avenue, #12/13

Closing date: May 4, 2012

Price: $52.5 million

In the second priciest co-op deal of the year, billionaire investor Howard Marks, chairman of the global asset management firm Oaktree Capital, paid $52.5 million for a 30-room spread at 740 Park Avenue owned by Courtney Ross, the widow of the late Time Warner CEO Steve Ross.

The eight-bedroom pad — actually a combination of two apartments — has 10 bathrooms, two libraries and two dining rooms, according to the listing. Six exterior terraces overlook Central Park. Ross reportedly bought the two apartments in the 1980s for a total of $8 million. He passed away in 1992.

Kathy Sloane

The 740 Park Avenue spread was quietly shopped around in 2009 before officially hitting the market in 2011 for $60 million with Kathy Sloane of Brown Harris Stevens.

“It’s a totally unique space,” said Sloane, who noted that she got the listing through a mutual friend. “This was an opportunity to have over 12,000 square feet in one of the best buildings in the world.”

When the deal closed in May, it broke the record set by the 2008 sale of a spread at 2 East 67th Street to Loews Hotels CEO Jonathan Tisch for $48 million.

Other high-profile residents of 740 Park include billionaire Stephen Schwarzman, co-founder of the Blackstone Group, and fashion designer Vera Wang.

Roberta Golubuck of Sotheby’s represented the buyer, but was not available for comment. The deal came just one month after Marks took Oaktree public with $79 billion in assets.

834 Fifth Avenue, #12B

Closing date: Jan. 31, 2012

Price: $42 million

The year started out with a bang when Robert Bass, the founder of investment firm Oak Hill Capital Partners, paid $42 million for a 12th-floor unit at the exclusive co-op, 834 Fifth Avenue.

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Bass, said to be worth close to $3 billion, ranked 88th on the 2011 Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans. He bought the apartment from fellow financier Damon Mezzacappa, head of the now-defunct private investment firm Mezzacappa Management and former vice chairman of financial advisory firm Lazard Frères & Co.

Mezzacappa was represented by his wife, Katherine Bryan of Sotheby’s. Elsie Nelson of Brown Harris Stevens represented Bass.

Mezzacappa told The Real Deal he sold the apartment because he moved to Florida after winding down Mezzacappa Management.

The white-glove co-op was constructed in 1930 and designed by architect Rosario Candela. News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch and Charles Schwab, head of the eponymous brokerage and banking firm, are also residents of the building.

973 Fifth Avenue

The Stanford White Mansion, 973 Fifth Avenue

Closing date: June 21, 2012

Price: $42 million

Paula Del Nunzio

In June, a mansion at 973 Fifth Avenue designed by famed architect Stanford White sold for the same price as Mezzacappa’s unit. The 15,225-square-foot house, located between East 78th and 79th streets, had been listed for $49 million by Brown Harris Stevens broker Paula Del Nunzio.

The deal marked the priciest sale of a Manhattan townhouse in 2012, though the overall record for the city’s most-expensive townhouse sale is still held by the Harkness Mansion.

Del Nunzio, who declined to identify the buyer or seller, said 973 Fifth “was one of the last two mansions designed by the illustrious Stanford White. It contained not only all the original interior detail of its famed architect, but also his original floor plan. … The view from the roof of Central Park was pure perfection.”

According to public records, the seller of the Stanford White Mansion was an entity called OBE Holdings, and the buyer was 973 Fifth LLC. Plans were recently filed to renovate the property, according to data provider PropertyShark.

The home was designed in the early 1900s for banker and railroad tycoon Henry Cook. Prior to Del Nunzio’s listing, it had not been on the market in more than 30 years.

2 East 70th Street, #PH13A

Closing date: June 11, 2012

Price: $40.06 million

The stringent co-op board at 2 East 70th Street this spring approved Laure Sudreau-Rippe — an attorney and a minority owner of the agricultural commodities conglomerate Louis Dreyfus Holding BV — to purchase an apartment owned by the late private equity giant Ted Forstmann.

Meredyth Smith

Sudreau-Rippe paid approximately $40 million — 11 percent above the asking price — for the 4,000-square-foot home. Forstmann’s estate was represented by Meredyth Smith and Serena Boardman of Sotheby’s. Sudreau-Rippe was represented by Brown Harris Stevens broker Dominic Paolillo.

The three-bedroom unit was never formally listed for sale, but reportedly has a wraparound terrace with views of Central Park.

Forstmann, who famously dated actress Elizabeth Hurley and “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi, died in 2011 of brain cancer. He was the chairman and CEO of IMG Worldwide, a sports and fashion-marketing company.

Smith told TRD the apartment was subject to a bidding war. “It’s one of the most extraordinary penthouses on Fifth Avenue,” she said.

730 Park Avenue, PH

Closing Date: Oct. 24, 2012

Price: $39 million

Another “whisper listing” that sold this year was the 12-room duplex at 730 Park Avenue, which traded for $39 million in October.

Daniel Benton, co-founder of technology-based hedge fund Andor Capital Management, bought the unit from a seller named Joann Walker, public records show. The listing was a co-exclusive between Stribling and the Sotheby’s team of Smith and Boardman.

The four-bedroom penthouse reportedly features five terraces, a solarium, a greenhouse breakfast room and a 37-foot-wide living area.

Benton and his wife, Anne, reportedly own another unit in the building, which they purchased for $21 million in 2007.

Whisper listings are challenging to market, but “at the upper, upper end of the market, the buyers and sellers really prize discretion,” Smith said. To unload the property, “we quietly reached out to brokers we know who work with appropriate types of buyer.”

15 West 63rd Street, #29A

Closing date: Nov. 19, 2012

Price: $33.5 million

Riza Aziz, a Hollywood producer and the son of former Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak, paid $33.5 million for a seven-bedroom condo at the Park Laurel on 63rd Street in November.

Aziz, whose company is currently producing the Martin Scorsese film “The Wolf of Wall Street,” bought the unit from Peter Edward Chadney and Simone Cecile Von Graffenried Simperl, both residents of Switzerland, public records show.

The unit was not publicly listed, and a spokesperson for Aziz told TRD that no brokers were involved in the deal.

The sellers purchased the apartment for almost $24 million in 2010, according to public records. The 15-room duplex has 7,728 square feet of interior space and a terrace.

Aziz most recently produced the movie “Friends with Kids.”

1030 Fifth Avenue, #9W

1030 Fifth Avenue, #9W

Closing date: April 17, 2012

Price: $31.5 million

Ronnie Lane and Bonnie Chajet

Tech mogul George Blumenthal closed on the $31.5 million sale of his six-bedroom, prewar co-op in April, just three months after listing it with Warburg Realty’s Bonnie Chajet and Ronnie Lane. The 6,000-square-foot unit at 1030 Fifth Avenue, a white-glove building on the corner of 84th Street, closed for $3.5 million less than the initial asking price.

The ninth-floor unit was purchased by hedge funder Zachary Jared Schreiber and wife Lori, who were represented by Brown Harris Stevens’ Blackmon.

The Schreibers also own a three-bedroom apartment at 15 Central Park West, which they listed briefly with Blackmon in 2011. The unit is no longer on the market, according to StreetEasy.

Their new apartment at 1030 Fifth Avenue has a library, a formal dining room with a fireplace, a gym and two maid’s rooms, according to the listing.

Chajet declined to name the seller, but said she sold the apartment to him more than 20 years ago. When he was ready to sell, “he came back to me,” she said. “He was an empty nester ready to change his lifestyle.”

Chajet said he has since moved into a smaller apartment in a more modern building on the West Side.

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