Paydirt: Kushner’s exit strategy, gutting the condo glut, NYC’s priciest new building … & more

The industry news you need to know to start your week, and what’s ahead

From left: Rendering of 50 Hudson Yards, Jared Kushner (credit: Getty Images) and 40 Wall Street
From left: Rendering of 50 Hudson Yards, Jared Kushner (credit: Getty Images) and 40 Wall Street

The era of the $4 billion office tower is upon us.

Related Companies and Oxford Properties Group are pegging the cost of 50 Hudson Yards, a 2.8 million-square-foot, 985-foot-tall tower, at $3.94 billion. That’s according to an application, spotted by TRD’s Rich Bockmann, that the partners filed with the New York City Industrial Development Agency. The estimate makes it the priciest office building expected to be built in New York, eclipsing 1 World Trade Center (pegged at $3.8 billion).

On a per-square-foot basis, it pencils out to a total development cost (land, financing, construction, soft costs) of more than $1,400 a foot. Related [TRDataCustom] is in the market for a construction loan of over $2.5 billion.

BlackRock is set to be the anchor tenant at 50 Hudson, committing to 850,000 square feet over 15 floors. The money manager, which scored a $25 million state tax break as part of the deal, was also considering the “Spiral,” a neighboring building being developed by Tishman Speyer and designed by Bjarke Ingels that’s projected to cost $3.2 billion. Perhaps Larry Fink is more of a Norman Foster man?

40 Wall: Owning a piece of Manhattan’s skyline is a global aspiration, and many of the city’s most famous properties fly foreign flags. The Plaza Hotel, for example, is controlled – though likely not for long – by India’s embattled Sahara Group.  The Roosevelt Hotel is owned by state-run Pakistan International Airlines. CIC, a Chinese sovereign wealth fund, recently bought a noncontrolling stake in 1221 Sixth, though it tried to mask its involvement by going through Invesco. But perhaps no ownership is as intriguing as that of 40 Wall Street, Donald Trump’s prized Lower Manhattan tower.

Though it’s often reported as being owned by Trump, the property is actually controlled through a byzantine web of entities connected to twin wealthy ship brokers from Hamburg, a woman who married into the famous German von Bismarck dynasty, and a descendant of another prominent dynasty, the von Arnims. In other words, the president-elect is set to make regular lease payments on his most valuable asset to the European A-list.

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Shots fired: The fuzzy feelings couldn’t last. Just weeks after JLL’s star trio of investment-sales brokers decamped for Colliers, word emerged from within JLL that they weren’t pulling their weight. One high-level source at the brokerage told TRD’s Mark Maurer that last January, Richard Baxter, Ron Cohen, Scott Latham and Jon Caplan were warned that they needed to do more. In September, they were reportedly given an ultimatum: either deliver the goods, or walk. But a source close to the three brokers who joined Colliers (Caplan opted to start his own firm) said that was hogwash: According to this source, they were offered a “substantial financial package to stay at JLL and opted for Colliers for better leadership.”

It’s likely never going to become clear how exactly it all went down. But the claim of poor leadership appears to have some merit: Gavin Morgan, whom JLL tapped to oversee the I-sales team in December 2015, was recently reassigned.

Gutting the condo glut: Just over 6,000 units were approved for sale by the New York AG’s office in 2016, down 21 percent from 2015. It’s an indication that developers – and banks – have realized product ain’t moving like it used to. Even more telling is the drop in dollar volume: 2015’s approved units added up to a sellout of $27.57 billion, but in 2016, dollar volume fell to $13.72 billion, nearly half that figure. Not only have Manhattan projects come down to earth (somewhat), developers are also spreading their bets into Brooklyn and Queens.

At 666 Fifth, the devil’s in the details: No building in Kushner Cos.’ portfolio has generated headlines quite like 666 Fifth Avenue. In 2007, Jared Kushner led the family firm into a $1.8 billion deal for the property. The purchase broke records and made Kushner Cos. a player in Manhattan, but it also nearly brought the firm down: Kushner rescued the deal by persuading the banks to restructure the debt and by bringing in Vornado as a partner. In July, the building popped back into the spotlight, when it was revealed that a dispute over it had pushed Kushner into commissioning a hit piece on Richard Mack, whose firm held some of the tower’s debt.

And on Saturday, the Times reported that Kushner, now President-elect Donald Trump’s closest adviser, has been in talks with Anbang chairman Wu Xiaohui about a possible joint venture on the property. The Chinese insurer, which owns the Waldorf Astoria, has come into scrutiny about its ownership structure and its close ties to the Chinese government. Kushner’s business relationship with Wu, given his influence on the upcoming administration, makes some queasy.

According to Kushner’s spokesperson, he will divest himself of his personal stake in the building. But since his firm has no plans to sell the property, it’s unclear what that will look like. Kushner will also, according to his attorney, resign as CEO of Kushner Cos., a move that will put more responsibility on the shoulders of Laurent Morali, the firm’s recently appointed president. And, it appears, on his father, Charlie Kushner.

(Paydirt is a weekly column that riffs on the biggest NYC real estate news of the moment, providing analysis and historical context on the deals and players that make this town tick. Read more from Paydirt here.)