Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch has backed out of a $6.5 million deal to buy a penthouse apartment at 141 Prince Street because his new neighbors said they would prohibit any significant renovations to the apartment, which five years ago underwent a dramatic face lift that earned it the nickname “the SoHo Chateau,” according to real estate sources.
Mr. Murdoch, who is in the middle of a divorce from his wife of three decades, Anna Murdoch, has been living in the Mercer Hotel and looking for a new home with 31-year old Wendy Deng, the former vice president of his Asian satellite television conglomerate, since October. On Jan. 25, Mr. Murdoch signed a contract to purchase the 6,000-square-foot triplex on Prince Street near West Broadway, but the apartment went back on the market in late April for $6.95 million, the asking price when Mr. Murdoch came upon the scene. Still, Howard Rubenstein, a spokesman for Mr. Murdoch, said the deal is not totally dead.
The eclectic apartment has a courtyard-style dining room with a skylight, French culinary finishes in the kitchen and a 1,000-square-foot living room with a fireplace and eight windows on the first floor; the top floor is a 3,000-square-foot terrace complete with a gas grill, an outdoor shower, a greenhouse and a den in an old water tank.
Brokers familiar with the property said the prior owner’s renovations were so disruptive to the building that its co-op board has had enough. “The board president wasn’t going to allow anyone to make any changes to the apartment, because [the tenants] lived through hell,” said one broker who has shown the apartment to a client.
Louis Meisel, the board president, declined to comment on the apartment, but the board’s attitude was the reason Mr. Murdoch decided to break the deal, said the broker: “Anyone who’s spending that kind of money on the place, they always want to redo.”
Real estate sources said the 68-year-old News Corporation chief is looking at other properties, leaving some SoHo residents a little crestfallen. “There is no sign of life up there,” said one neighbor, who can see the penthouse from his own apartment at West Broadway and Prince Street. “[I] can see over the top of the parapet, and the trees don’t seem to have been moved. Some of them seemed to be dying, actually, for lack of water. And it just struck me as funny.”
ASHTON HAWKINSCAPTAINS OCTAGONALHAMPTONSHOME. After years of renting in Sagaponack, L.I., and East Hampton, Metropolitan Museum of Art executive vice president Ashton Hawkins has made a place for himself in the writerly community of Sag Harbor, starting this summer. In late March, the 62-year-old arts administrator purchased a $1.1 million house on two acres of waterfront land on Long Point Road.
“When you’re in there, it’s really like being in a boat,” said one Sag Harbor broker familiar with the house. The octagonal house is situated on a promontory at the eastern tip of a horseshoe-shaped piece of land and is surrounded by Morris Cove on three sides. Propped up by 10-foot stilts, the dwelling has water views from every window. “During nor’easters and stuff, [Mr. Hawkins] will certainly get the brunt of the wind,” said the broker.
The unusual-looking residence contains three bedrooms and three baths, and outside there’s a fenced-in pool. Real estate sources said Mr. Hawkins is in the first phases of a major gut renovation to the interior–a much-needed effort, according to a one broker close to the deal who said the house required “a lot of taste and imagination.” Still, the broker added that Mr. Hawkins’ stretch of property is “wonderfully wild and hidden,” and that it “looks much more like parts of Montauk.”
The neighborhood around Morris Cove is not without its own social pedigree. Among Mr. Hawkins’ 16-odd waterfront neighbors is Elaine Steinbeck, the widow of John Steinbeck, who did much of his writing from the couple’s cottage on Bluff Point Lane at the eastern tip of the horseshoe.
UPPER EAST SIDE
167 East 61st Street (Trump Plaza)
Two-bed, 2.5-bath, 1,400-square-foot co-op.
Asking: $449,000. Selling: $412,000.
Charges: $2,900; 59 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: one month.
THIS ISN’T WHAT HE MEANT BY ‘THE ART OF THE DEAL.’ Developer Donald Trump has never seen eye to eye with New York’s co-op establishment. But that doesn’t completely explain why this two-bedroom apartment in Mr. Trump’s only co-op building in the city sold for $63,000 less than the sellers–and their broker, presumably–estimated it was worth. The couple selling this 1,400-square-foot apartment in Trump Plaza near Third Avenue put it on the market in December 1998 for $475,000. By January, they had moved into a new apartment and decided to get rid of the place as soon as possible by dropping the price to $449,000. A couple with an apartment in Murray Hill negotiated them down all the way to $412,000. The new owners have a primary residence out of state but have kept a pied-à-terre in the city for years. They admired this apartment’s wooden built-ins and spare bedroom-turned-study; they’re already poring over fabric swatches for the new furniture. Broker: Bellmarc Realty (Marilyn Fleming; RonaldTardanico).
UPPER WEST SIDE
200 West 86th Street
One-bed, one-bath, 925-square-foot prewar co-op.
Asking: $389,000. Selling: $410,000.
Charges: $668; 40 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: one week.
AFTER ALL THAT THERAPY, 50-YEAR-OLD MOVES HOME. A man in his 50’s who had lived downtown with his wife for 20 years couldn’t be outbid once he caught a glimpse of this one-bedroom apartment, which reminded him of his former home. The seller, a single man in pharmaceuticals, bought this ninth-floor apartment between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues about 18 months ago. After moving in, he added french doors to separate the living room from the bedroom and knocked down a closet to make room for a bar–nice touches, but not enough to keep him from the wilds of New Jersey, where he recently purchased a country house. The man who bought the apartment for $410,000 had previously lived on the Upper West Side and was eager to return to the land of sunken living rooms, thick floors and Art Deco accouterments. Because there were two other bidders, he even tacked $21,000 onto the price. Broker: Corcoran (Brian Rice and Linda Gorby; Lisa Lippman).
225 Central Park West
One-bed, one-bath, 700-square-foot prewar co-op.
Asking: $310,000. Selling: $310,000.
Charges: $1,125; 73 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: one week.
THE NEW NEWLYWED GAME. Some newlyweds had been renting a place on the Upper West Side. Last fall, they tried to buy an apartment at 225 Central Park West, near 82nd Street, but their offer was too meager for the all-out bidding war that ensued. For six months, the couple was so depressed that they didn’t even look at other properties. Then one afternoon, the wife was surfing the Internet when she came across a listing for a sixth-floor apartment in the same building. She was the first arrival to the open house three days later, and also made the first offer. Despite having to duke it out with two other parties, she and her hubby offered every penny the seller was asking for and emerged from the bidding war armed with a contract. Broker: Corcoran Group (Mark Schoenfeld).
415 East 54th Street (St. James Tower)
Four-bed, 4.5-bath, 3,500-square-foot condo.
Asking: $2.6 million. Selling: $2.45 million.
Charges: $2,907. Taxes: $1,541.
Time on the market: one month.
THE CITY’S BEST DAY CARE. Five years ago, a Philippines-based company paid $2.25 million for a four-bedroom duplex near Sutton Place, the neighborhood where it already owned a six-bedroom apartment that served as a dormitory for its traveling employees. The company rented out the new apartment after adding a few basic touches–installing mechanical sun shades, restructuring closets. After five years of landlording, the company decided to sell the place. Enter a couple who had just descended on their new grandchild by moving into a rental apartment near Sutton Place. They were delighted to find this amenities-filled building–no babysitting, of course, that’s what they’re there for. They especially wanted to avoid a co-op board. The Philippine company made a mere $200,000 in profit–augmented only by years of rental income. Broker: Prudential/M.L.B. Kaye International Realty (Marysue Bailey); Brown Harris Stevens Residential Sales.