Plot thickens in case of missing Chinese mogul’s 432 Park Avenue condo
Records suggest Whitney Duan helped move ownership of two luxury units offshore
A missing Chinese national who helped buy a $30 million apartment at 432 Park Avenue also has ties to the purchase of a second unit in the building, property records indicate.
A company affiliated with Whitney Duan purchased a 2,600-square-foot spread on the 80th floor of the building in 2016 for $19 million in cash, the records show. Three months earlier, as The Real Deal reported, another company connected to Duan purchased a condo on the 72nd floor for $30 million, financed by the $13.75 million loan she personally guaranteed. That unit, 72A, is now headed for foreclosure.
Duan appears to have transferred ownership interests in the two condo units from a pair of U.S. companies to two overseas entities, according to property records.
Moving assets overseas is not illegal or even atypical for high-flying international buyers, but the extent of Duan’s involvement calls attention to the saga of a mysterious owner who is on the cusp of losing a $30 million apartment and can’t be found — or even identified.
With nobody paying the $12.6 million in outstanding debt on unit 72A, Maverick Real Estate Partners has moved to foreclose on the Billionaires’ Row apartment. On Monday, the building’s condo board placed a lien on the unit, citing $78,000 in unpaid common charges. Condo board president Meir Cohen could not immediately be reached.
Foreclosure on a unit in such a trophy building would be rare, but a number of international buyers have found their properties ensnared in the courts after opaque financial dealings. The foreclosure process initiated by Maverick continues in a Manhattan court.
A number of questions about the two 432 Park Avenue units remain unanswered:
Where is Whitney Duan?
Duan, also known as Weihong Duan, is listed in court filings as the guarantor to a $13.75 million mortgage at 432 Park Avenue. She has not spoken publicly since the Chinese government reportedly detained her four years ago in a corruption inquiry. One of China’s wealthiest women, Duan was linked to a multi-billion-dollar fortune amassed by former Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao.
Maverick, which recently took over the loan, lists Duan’s last address as apartment 1901 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beijing. She could not be reached there. Duan’s former husband, Desmond Shum, has penned a forthcoming book about the circumstances surrounding her unknown whereabouts.
Who owns 432 Park Avenue units 72A and 80A?
The companies which purchased the units veil the identity of the individual or individuals who control them. One piece of information publicly available, however, is an address for the owner of unit 72A: a condo unit at 200 East 65th Street in Lenox Hill.
That unit is owned by Xiangxi Duan, who purchased it for $2.8 million in 2018, according to deed records. TRD could not identify a familial link between Whitney Duan and Xiangxi Duan, who purchased the unit through a separate LLC named Eagle Harvest.
Where does the money lead?
After guaranteeing the $13.75 million mortgage loan made on unit 72A in July 2016, Duan personally lent $5.8 million the following year to the LLC that owns the unit. Duan’s loan was approved as subordinate to the mortgage loan by its originator, China Citic Bank.
The borrower of Duan’s $5.8 million — 432 Park 72A LLC — appears in public documents to be managed by a British Virgin Islands business named Pinenew Investments Limited. Ownership of unit 80A was transferred to Best Seal Investments Limited, with an address of Whitney Duan’s Beijing apartment. The companies could not be reached.
Approximately $54.8 million has flowed through the LLC owners of units 72A and 80A, based on the amount paid for the condos and Duan’s personal loan. Maverick took over the mortgage debt on unit 72A from China Citic in May.
A New York state law passed in 2019 began requiring businesses like 432 Park 72A LLC to reveal their individual owners. Congress enacted a similar measure in January. The information, however, remains hidden to the public.
Did the owners of these residences ever stay there?
It is unclear. The Billionaires’ Row and Lenox Hill condo units have both been listed for rent since they were last purchased. The 432 Park Avenue unit asked a staggering $78,000 per month, although attorneys for Maverick Real Estate told a Manhattan court that the apartment is unfurnished.
Will the $30 million condo be foreclosed on and sold?
It is looking that way. Neither 432 Park 72A LLC nor Duan have replied to Maverick’s court filings seeking a commercial foreclosure, and the owner has not cited Covid hardship as a reason to stop it. Without a response from the owner of the condo unit, it will almost certainly be sold to collect the mortgage debt.
The luxury market is not back to its peak in 2017, but is recovering from its pandemic trough, and profitable resales have occurred at 432 Park Avenue. The top-floor penthouse there is listed at $169 million, about double its purchase price. But no sales have closed at the building since complaints about design and construction flaws came to light in February.