Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Stiffs Tommy Mottola In $7.65 Million Deal

When Amazon.com chief executive Jeffrey Bezos, 35, agreed to purchase three condominiums at 25 Central Park West from Sony Music chief executive Tommy Mottola in the final weeks of August for $7.65 million, the Internet prodigy didn’t even have to match what Mr. Mottola had paid for the 4,400-square-foot space four months earlier.

Mr. Bezos had stumbled into the late stages of the newly single millionaire’s frustrated search for an impressive penthouse on Central Park West. Mr. Mottola had begun renovations on the three apartments when he lost interest and started looking all over again. Sources characterized the space that Mr. Mottola put up for sale as a multimillion-dollar hard-hat zone requiring $1 million or so in further renovations. Still, after a year and a half of acquiring and unloading property–most recently paying $13.3 million for four floors at 9 East 64th Street–Mr. Mottola ended up profiting from his real estate neurosis.

“He couldn’t find what he really wanted,” said a source with knowledge of Mr. Mottola’s situation. “He really wants a dramatic penthouse, like on Central Park West. [But] there’s nothing under $25 million that he wants … For the second time, he’s settling.”

In April 1998, when Mr. Mottola and singer Mariah Carey split, he owned a 51-acre estate in Bedford, N.Y., with nine bedrooms and 14 baths; a beach house in the village of North Haven, L.I., for which he paid a reported $2.1 million; and he held the lease on a $25,000-a-month condominium at 1049 Fifth Avenue, near 86th Street.

In the spring of 1998, Mr. Mottola sold the Bedford home to Triarc Companies chief executive Nelson Peltz for $20.5 million. Then, in July, 53-year-old Lee Munder, a retired financier, bought Mr. Mottola’s beach house for $8.7 million (a $6.6 million profit).

In the meantime–while still residing at 1049 Fifth Avenue–Mr. Mottola purchased three apartments at the Century, a prewar condominium at 25 Central Park West near 62nd Street, for an estimated $8 million in April. At the time, the record mogul’s intent was to combine the apartments–an existing duplex on the 19th and 20th floors and an adjoining apartment on the 20th floor–to create one large apartment with a tremendous living and entertaining space. But mid-construction, Mr. Mottola had a change of heart. Deciding that the 4,400 square feet was too small, the executive put the Century condos back on the market in early July for $8.9 million, which was later reduced to $8.7 million. That original price, and the demolished state of the apartments, turned off buyers.

Real estate sources said that Mr. Bezos signed a contract on the Century apartments for $7.65 million in August, and that the sale was finalized in September. Although he resides primarily in Seattle, where his on-line bookseller, Amazon.com, is based, sources familiar with the deal say that Mr. Bezos intends to use the Manhattan apartments as a pied-à-terre for himself and his wife, novelist MacKenzie Bezos, and his parents, Miguel and Jacklyn Gise Bezos.

Mr. Mottola continues to hole up in his Fifth Avenue rental apartment, according to a source familiar with his plans. But he signed a contract in September for all but the top floor of 9 East 64th Street, a condominium development under construction on the former site of the Foundation House, the never-realized dream of Theodore Kheel. Mr. Mottola’s purchase adds up to 11,456 square feet. Construction on the two apartments, for which Mr. Mottola signed a contract in September, should be completed next year.

But anything could happen by then.

Upper East Side

THE $1.5 MILLION APARTMENT THE METS’ BOBBY BONILLA MAY NOT NEED ANYMORE. Mets pinch-hitter Bobby Bonilla arrived in town last fall with a two-year, $11.8 million contract and hopes to steal a World Series victory from the New York Yankees. Before the season even started, the 36-year-old New York native bet $1.5 million on his swing. In February, the slugger signed a contract for a two-bedroom, 1,500-square-foot condominium in the swanky, Robert A.M. Stern-designed apartment building going up at 181 East 65th Street, called the Chatham.

Now, with the Mets collapsing as they struggle to even become the wild-card team in the National League playoffs, and Mr. Bonilla’s disappointing and injury-riddled season, a six-figure apartment deal doesn’t look like such a great idea–especially since the apartment won’t be ready for occupancy until next August, at which point he may have left the Mets, or the organization may have decided to let his contract expire.

After a disappointing debut in April and May, Mr. Bonilla, who signed on as an outfielder, was benched on June 7 and refused to pinch-hit. Not long after, he had a series of shouting matches with Mets manager Bobby Valentine that reportedly almost came to blows. By the middle of June, fans were openly booing Mr. Bonilla from the stadium stands; in mid-July, he commented to a reporter, “This will probably be my final year here.”

A broker familiar with the hitter’s deal said, “He wanted something in the city and something centrally located. He really would have rather had Fifth or Park, but he didn’t think he’d fit in.”

Mr. Bonilla’s apartment comes with nine-foot ceilings, herringbone-paneled oak floors and detailed crown moldings. The building is expected to receive its certificate of occupancy from the city in the summer of 2000. The source said that the baseball player planned to move to 65th Street from Greenwich, Conn., when the place is ready. Neither Mr. Bonilla nor his agent would comment.

812 Park Avenue

Two-bed, 2.5-bath prewar co-op.

Asking: $1.98 million. Selling: $1.98 million.

Charges: $3,500; 40 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: four months.

WHO’S AFRAID OF THE CO-OP BOARD? NOT A C.E.O. When a wealthy couple saw this two-bedroom apartment, well, it completed them . There had been some intense bidding for the co-op; others had submitted offers but were rejected by the building’s ultra-strict board. But this couple had no trouble. He’s a chief executive at a Fortune 500 company; she does volunteer work for various charitable organizations. They have one cat and no children. Both are from New York, but the husband’s company had them in Ohio for a while. Now they’re back, and their new $1.98 million apartment is just a block away from the wife’s family. The place has a long list of fabulous features: a maid’s room and bathroom; a new eat-in kitchen; a formal dining room; marble floors in the foyer; two (count ‘em) working fireplaces; and imposing 12-foot-high ceilings. The deal closed around Labor Day. Broker: Gumley Haft Kleier (Judy Kendall-Levine).

425 East 79th Street

Two-bed, one-bath, 1,100-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $360,000. Selling: $345,000.

Charges: $878; 55 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: two months.

LONG ISLANDER SAVES ON MOSQUITO NETTING. It’s no fun doing a reverse commute from Manhattan to Long Island, but if you must, you may as well do it from a splendid apartment. This sunny pad has large closets, a layout that actually makes sense, and get this: There are screens on the windows –an almost unheard-of amenity in Manhattan, to be sure. Plus the building, close to the F.D.R. Drive, has its own parking garage, a rooftop garden, a 24-hour doorman and–though the merits of this are debatable–a live-in super. The buyer, a single woman, is a teacher who sold her Long Island home in order to better enjoy all that the city has to offer … like the mosquitoes. Broker: William B. May Company (Lorraine Gootenberg); Bellmarc East (Renée Isacoff).

200 East 69th Street

Four-bed, 3.5-bath, 2,550-square-foot condo.

Asking: $2.95 million. Selling: $2.725 million.

Charges: $2,728. Taxes: $1,350.

Time on the market: six months.

WHERE BUYING A CONDO IS LIKE CASTING YOUR VOTE. You may have a decent apartment–but can you boast of living in a building developed by a potential Presidential candidate? (No, not Pat Buchanan.) At Trump Palace, the pride and joy of you-know-who, a couple recently bought this 38th-floor apartment with high ceilings and three balconies. Sure it’s expensive–and big (one of the largest apartments in the building) for a pied-à-terre for some folks living across the Hudson. But that could just be read as a vote for you-know-who. The sellers are an ob-gyn and a retired engineer who bought the apartment for $1.65 million about seven years ago when the building was new. Now, with their million-dollar-plus profit, they’re headed to the Museum Tower at 15 West 53rd Street. Broker: Ashforth Warburg Associates (Richard Steinberg); Corcoran Group (Cynthia Keskinkaya).

TRIBECA

PROLIFIC PETE HAMILL BUYS $765,000 LOFT. Editor and writer Peter Hamill–who this year signed on as a contributing writer at The New Yorker and negotiated a two-book deal with Little, Brown & Company, estimated at $1 million–bought an 1,800-square-foot loft at 55 Walker Street in mid-August for about $765,000.

Mr. Hamill and his wife, Fukiko Aoki, had been renting a loft in the neighborhood and had admired the 19th-century five-story building near Broadway, sources said. The couple is now happily ensconsed in the two-bedroom apartment they purchased from gallery owner Ethan Cohen and his wife, Nathalie Cohen.

“It was a true loft that was altered for modern living,” said Mr. Cohen, who, during his years in the apartment with his wife and two young children, had installed sliding partitions to create a flexible living space. “My wife designed a very beautiful back bedroom, and the kitchen was able to be sort of cordoned off; you could easily close it by movable walls.”

Mr. Cohen, who used to run his gallery, Ethan Cohen Fine Arts, out of his apartment, moved the business to 37 Walker Street earlier this year when the family decided to live for most of the year on Cape Cod. Mr. Cohen maintains a small apartment in TriBeCa.

The 1,800-square-foot loft has two bedrooms and two baths, and was on the market for two and a half months. Mr. Hamill, whose coffee-table book about the Mexican artist Diego Rivera hits bookstores in October, did not respond to requests for comment.

90 Hudson Street

One-bed, one-bath, 1,250-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $745,000. Selling: $745,000.

Charges: $1,154; 70 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: three weeks.

THE LAST BARGAIN BELOW CANAL STREET. Getting a place like this in TriBeCa for under $1 million is what you’d call a deal: a seventh-floor penthouse duplex with spectacular views, a wood-burning fireplace, central air-conditioning, mahogany cabinets, hardwood floors, skylights, Italian tile in the bathroom and what is known as a “cook’s kitchen,” with a Sub-Zero fridge and various fun gadgets. Oh, and there’s a 1,000-square-foot deck. The buyer is a single woman who does public relations for a top designer. This is her first purchase; she had been renting in the West Village. About a year ago, the apartment was put on the market by the owners, a Web-head and a photographer, but the potential buyer was turned down by the co-op board. The owners took the apartment off the market for a while, and when they put it up for sale again, the fashionista spun the board in her favor. Broker: Douglas Elliman (Shaun Osher).

MIDTOWN

15 West 53rd Street

One-bed, 1.5-bath, 1,200-square-foot condo.

Asking: $575,000. Selling: $550,000.

Charges: $836. Taxes: $654.

Time on the market: eight weeks.

MOON OVER MUSEUM TOWER. A Citibank vice president met a broker on the Internet. The two made a date to see this 1,200-square-foot condo; it turns out the buyer was a fan of Norman Jewison, the director of Moonstruck , who was selling the place after owning it for a decade. The woman submitted a bid an hour later and took over the place in August. The building, Museum Tower, so named because it sits atop the Museum of Modern Art, has a health club, valet service, housekeeping and a parking garage. The apartment is in superb condition, with huge windows, teak hardwood floors, lots of closets and all-marble baths. There are cheaper one-bedrooms to be found in this city, but, as the broker said, “This is a special apartment in a special building for a special person.” Broker: Corcoran (Katie Rodgers).