Aby Rosen picks up Madison Avenue office property once center of family feud

Socialite Barbara Slifka battled her nephews in court over her right to sell the site

From left: Barbara Slifka, 477 Madison Avenue and RFR Holding's Aby Rosen (Credit: Google Maps and Getty Images)
From left: Barbara Slifka, 477 Madison Avenue and RFR Holding's Aby Rosen (Credit: Google Maps and Getty Images)

A drawn-out family feud over a corner of Madison Avenue real estate came to a close last week when an octogenarian socialite finally parted ways with the property.

Barbara Slifka, a former fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar and a philanthropist who serves on numerous boards including the Guggenheim and the New York City Ballet, sold the property at 477 Madison Avenue to Aby Rosen’s RFR Holding for a price north of $260 million, sources told The Real Deal. On Thursday, July 11 RFR closed on $198 million in financing from Citibank on the transaction.

A spokesperson for RFR declined to comment, and representatives for Barbara Slifka could not be immediately reached.

The sale concludes a tangled struggle for the property between Barbara, 89, and two adult children of her twin brother, the late investment manager and philanthropist Alan Slifka. Barbara and Alan took control of the property after their father, Joseph Slifka, left it to them following his death in 1992.

Joseph Slifka owned the property at the corner of East 51st Street, which had been developed in 1953 into a 23-story, 325,000-square-foot building that upon opening served as the headquarters of the Ford Foundation. Following completion of the building, Joseph split the property via a ground lease so that the family could better manage its asset.

When Alan Slifka — a philanthropist in his own right who was the founding chairman of the Big Apple Circus and promoted Israeli and Arab coexistence — died in 2011, he left his half of the fee position to his three sons, Randy, Michael and David Slifka.

Barbara owned the other half of the fee position, as well as 50 percent of the leasehold that runs through 2039, according to court records. In 2013, Shorenstein Properties bought a 47.5 percent interest in the leasehold, and Alan’s three children owned the remaining 2.5 percent.

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But a few years after their father’s death, brothers Randy and Michael claimed that their aunt had orchestrated a power grab and worked to sell the family property against their interests. In 2017, the brothers sued Barbara, accusing her of collaborating with Shorenstein to sell both the fee position and the leasehold.

The case worked its way through the courts and appeals, and in April of this year the Manhattan state Supreme Court judge hearing the case threw it out, arguing that following the deaths of her father and brother, Barbara had become the managing member of the property.

A CBRE team of Darcy Stacom and Bill Shanahan marketed the property and negotiated the sale to RFR.

Rosen, who recently acquired the ground lease to the Chrysler Building, posted a photo of 477 Madison Avenue to his Instagram Friday with the caption “Welcome to the family.”


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Welcome to the family @rfrrealty

A post shared by abyrosen (@abyrosen) on

Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that David Slifka joined his brothers in suing his aunt. David, in fact, was a defendant in the lawsuit.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Friday, July 12 to reflect the financing RFR received on 477 Madison.