Ex-Philip Morris C.E.O. Sues Lazard Frères Neighbor for $3 Million House

East Hampton

Philip Morris chief executive emeritus Joe Cullman III purchased a $3 million carriage house on Terbell Lane in January after taking the owner, Eugene Black Jr., a writer and retired partner of Lazard Frères & Company to court, according to local real estate sources. Mr. Cullman, below, already owns an adjoining two-acre lot and the 1971 Charles Gwathmey-designed house on it, which he bought in the mid-1980’s.

Mr. Black bought his litigious property–which contains a two-story house, a windmill with guest quarters and more than 300 square feet of beachfront property along nearby Hook Pond–for a scant $100,000 in the mid-1970’s. “It was a complete wreck,” he told The Observer . “Bums were sleeping in it.” Mr. Black immediately set to renovating the main house into a five-bedroom, four-bath dwelling; 10 years later, he erected the windmill guest house from scratch.

Several years ago, Mr. Black, who divides his time between Palm Beach, Fla., and East Hampton, began unofficially marketing the house for $4.7 million. “It broke my heart to sell it,” said Mr. Black, who cited financial reasons for offloading the property. Eventually, he hired Sotheby’s International Realty, which priced the property at $3.95 million in 1997. By fall 1998, with the price further reduced to $3.65 million, an interested buyer emerged.

Enter Mr. Cullman, the next-door property owner, who claimed that he had first dibs on Mr. Black’s two acres. “Black had allegedly forgotten that he had signed a letter with Mr. Cullman for right of first refusal,” said an East Hampton broker familiar with the sale. “Nobody could buy it unless Cullman didn’t want it.”

According to the broker, the interested buyer of the property–a family that had already signed a $3.2 million contract on it–filed complaints against both Mr. Black and Mr. Cullman for

attempting to break their contract. A Suffolk County judge honored Mr. Cullman’s right of first refusal, and Mr. Cullman purchased the property in January for $3 million.

“It was very amusing to all of us out here,” said the broker, “because Cullman just kind of came up out of the woodwork, so there was lots of local consternation.”

Terbell Lane, a short, dead-end road in the East Hampton estate district, is also home to shopping-bag magnate Jonathan Canno, former chairman of Equitable Bag Company, Joseph Perella, head of investment banking at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and Company, and film director Sidney Lumet, who lives at the end of the street on Ocean Avenue.

Mr. Black, above, who has another East Hampton home on Jericho Road, would not comment on his dealings with Mr. Cullman. “I don’t want to get into that,” he said. “I ended up selling to him, period.”

Reached at their Manhattan home, the Cullmans declined to comment.

Upper West Side

140 Riverside Drive (Normandy)

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,850-square-foot prewar co-op.

Asking: $1.395 million. Selling: $1.3 million.

Charges: $1,628; 39 percent tax-deductible. Time on the market: one week.

SEVERAL THOUSAND SQUARE FEET LIGHTER. Once she settled a bidding war, the former owner of a five-story town house on West 77th Street (see item below) relocated to this 1,850-square-foot co-op near 86th Street. She owns about a quarter of the space she used to, but her new building has none of the responsibilities of her old home; the full-service building (doorman, concierge, gym, darkroom, children’s playroom) was built by renowned architect Emery Roth in 1939. The master bath still has the original 4-by-4-inch Roth tiling. The plumbing and electrical system (electricity is included in the hefty maintenance fee) are in great shape and there’s a fantastic view running the length of the living room and the master bedroom right down onto the Hudson River. Broker: Corcoran (Alan Berger); Orsid Realty Corporation (Olga Fisher).

131 West 77th Street

Five-story town house.

Asking: $2.195 million. Selling: $2 million.

Time on the market: three weeks.

BID HIGH AND CARRY AN ESCAPE CLAUSE. The woman who bought this five-story house between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues in 1969 hired Stephen B. Jacobs & Associates, the architectural firm that renovated the Hotel Endicott on Columbus Avenue into apartments. The 1879 house was redesigned into an eight-room owner’s duplex on the ground and second floors and three discrete rental units: one on the third level and two triplexes that felt like individual houses. Then, last Labor Day, she decided to give up landlording and put the house on the market. There were two interested parties: a couple who initially offered just under $2 million, and another party, who raised the bar to $2.25 million. But the higher bidders stalled on signing the contract, and the lower bidders wound up paying $2 million. Broker: Corcoran Group (Alan Berger); Douglas Elliman (Sylvia Morton).

Upper East Side

167 East 63rd Street

Four-story town house.

Asking: $3.295 million. Selling: $3.1 million.

Time on the market: six months.

TRADING PLACES WITH THE WHITNEYS. Dan Aykroyd and Donna Dixon had a child here, supposedly. That was in between Lionel Ritchie and Tommy Lee Jones moving in and out. Once home to John Hay (Jock) Whitney and his wife, Betsey Cushing Roosevelt Whitney, this four-story brick house has been a celebrity crash pad for the last couple of years while the owners spent their nights elsewhere. The Whitneys moved to Beekman Place in the 1970’s and the couple who bought the house in 1994 for about $2 million decided after a couple of years to rent it out since they were spending most of their time in Europe. It has five bedrooms, a garden, a garage and central air-conditioning. They recently kicked the famous tenants out and sold it to a family moving to New York from London. Broker: P.S. Burnham Inc. (Patricia Burnham); Douglas Elliman (Dennis Hughes).

Flatiron District

East 16th Street, off Union Square

Two-bath, 3,000-square-foot condo loft.

Asking: $820,000. Selling: $850,000.

Charges: $914. Taxes: $577.

Time on the market: six weeks.

ANOTHER VICTORY FOR THE SINGLE MAN. Broker Caryl Berenato spent two days with the single man who bought this erstwhile office space in the Flatiron District, looking at all the lofts in the area, and stumbled upon this one–a commercial space that was intended for residential conversion. It has high ceilings and 3,000 square feet of unmapped space, which the man loved. The only roadblock was a tentative deal from another party, who had made an offer last fall but stalled on signing the contract until mid-November, when Ms. Berenato’s client first saw the space. Since the other potential buyers were missing in action, the single man won out. Broker: Douglas Elliman (Caryl Berenato); Halstead Property Company.

SoHo

Greene Street between Houston and Spring streets

Four-bed, 3.5-bath, 4,200-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $2.2 million. Selling: $2.2 million.

Charges: $2,757; 55 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: three months.

EVERYONE SHOULD OWN THIS APARTMENT FOR A DAY OR TWO. Back in 1997, when this commercial building was being converted into a residential co-op, a young couple bought the third-floor loft for just under $1 million and asked the wife’s father, an architect, to design it for them. The deal closed around Christmas 1997. By July 1998, the bull market had convinced the couple that–Daddy’s handiwork notwithstanding–the smart thing to do would be to cash in on the improvements. So they put this four-bedroom apartment back on the market for an ambitious $2.2 million. That week, the first apartment-shoppers to cross the threshold, another young couple, said they’d pony up the cash. The buyers had been renting in SoHo, and despite a resolution to find a huge patio somewhere, they settled for this apartment’s excellent light and 4,200 square feet of space. When the stock market dipped in August, however,the sellers showed the place to a few more people–just in case. Again, the first party to see the space offered $2.2 million. But their broker, Viviane El-Yachar, detected something else–the new couple seemed amenable to paying even a little more. So Ms. El-Yachar contacted the buyers, whose check hadn’t even cleared, and asked if they would consider selling for a profit instead of moving in, too. They opted to get off the merry-go-round. Broker: Corcoran (Viviane El-Yachar); Ashforth Warburg Associates (Evelyn Ricci and Marcia Chesler).

Tribeca

166 Duane Street (Duane Park)

Three-bed, three-bath, 3,000-square-foot condo.

Asking: $995,000. Selling: $995,000.

Charges: $810. Taxes: $794.20.

Time on the market: two weeks.

SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING NEAR BUBBY’S. After a few disappointing tours in stuffy Greenwich Village co-ops, a Wall Street gentleman and his fiancée snubbed the cozy enclave for fun-loving TriBeCa. They bought this fourth-floor apartment in the brand-new Duane Park building near Hudson Street, home of Bubby’s restaurant, as a starter home. The building offers doorman, concierge and central air-conditioning. Broker: Corcoran (Dee Simonson and Jim Brawders).