RFR buying $144M note at 610 Lexington at discount: sources

Aby Rosen’s RFR Holding is in contract to buy back the debt for far less than the $144.2 million face value at the Midtown development site at 610 Lexington Avenue, a source familiar with the deal said.

Although the vacant property, where Rosen sought to build the Shangri-La Hotel, New York, is in contract to RFR Holding, it was not clear when the sale would close, the source said. The site is adjacent to Rosen’s iconic Seagram Building, at 375 Park Avenue.

In 2007, RFR borrowed $144.2 million from Lehman Brothers Holdings for the development of the 64-story hotel at the corner of Lexington Avenue and 53rd Street. However, the project stalled during the credit crisis. First, Lehman transferred the loans to ING Real Estate Finance in November 2008, city property records show. Then in April 2009 it was reported that Shangri-La had withdrawn from the project. Two months later, ING filed to foreclose on the loan.

Rosen’s company is expected to buy the note for about $75 million, but he had competition from various investors including Roy Stillman’s Stillman Development International, which signed a contract for $80 million, but did not close, according to another source.

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The site has rights for just over 200,000 square feet of development, information from PropertyShark.com shows.

RFR did not respond to a request for comment, and Stillman Development and ING declined to comment.

Even as some of Rosen’s projects have been delayed by the downturn, hotel assets have strengthened in value over the past year in Manhattan.