Charles Bronfman Buys 838 Fifth Penthouse From Alfred Taubman

Just weeks after his nephew Edgar Bronfman Jr. incensed company employees by posing for The New York Times inside his $4.4 million (plus three years’ worth of renovations) town house at 15 East 64th Street, Seagram Company Ltd. co-chairman Charles Bronfman has signed a contract to pay close to $18 million for a duplex penthouse condominium just around the corner at 838 Fifth Avenue, the former site of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.

As recently as July, Charles Bronfman sold 8.1 million shares of his personal Seagram stock as part of a $2.5 billion equity offering to help the business reduce its debt–which he reportedly attributes to his nephew’s entertainment industry acquisitions, Polygram Records and Universal Studios. Three months later, according to brokers, the 68-year-old business executive, whose family’s beverage and entertainment company is based in Montreal, signed a deal for a 5,343-square-foot apartment that occupies the entire 11th and 12th floors at 838 Fifth. Sources said the deal was done directly between Mr. Bronfman and the developers.

Seagram publicists had no comment at press time.

The sale is pending the July 2000 completion of the building, the former offices of a Reformed Jewish organization, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, which was purchased by Republic Bank founder Edmond Safra in 1997 for $31 million. It is being developed into 11 condos priced from $9 million to $18 million by Alfred Taubman, the chairman of Sotheby’s and a resident of 834 Fifth Avenue, right next door. The building, which is being redesigned by Beyer Blinder Belle, also offers storage rooms, wine cellars and servants’ quarters on the lower floors for between $30,000 and $566,000. According to brokers, two other apartments are in contract: the eight-floor unit, which is selling for almost $16 million, and the sixth-floor unit, which is selling for $12 million through Stribling & Associates.

Charles Bronfman and his wife, Andrea, will be moving into very close proximity to the rest of the New York-based Bronfman clan–who all live within 15 blocks of each other along Fifth Avenue. Seagram co-chairman Edgar Bronfman (president of the World Jewish Congress) and his wife, Jan Aronson, live at 960 Fifth Avenue near 77th Street. Their son Edgar, Seagram’s chief executive, recently completed a three-year renovation of his five-story town house on 64th Street between Fifth and Madison avenues, for which he paid $4.375 million in 1994, the year he married Clarissa Alcock. (Prior to that, Mr. Bronfman lived in another town house nine blocks uptown at 122 East 73rd Street, for which he paid $2.8 million in 1990 and offloaded last July for $4.5 million.) Matthew Bronfman, another of Edgar’s sons and president of Perfumes Isabell, paid $3 million for a town house at 7 East 67th Street in 1994, where he lives with his wife, public education activist Lisa Belzberg.

Charles and Andrea Bronfman will likely work with their own architect and devise a layout for their condominium, as buyers of new construction are being encouraged to do these days. But the developer’s proposed design for the Bronfmans’ new home contains three bedrooms, two fireplaces and multiple terraces.

Hopefully, Mr. Bronfman won’t meet with the same renovation headaches that other members of his family have. According to published reports, Matthew Bronfman spent $17 million on renovations. Then, the landlord of the rental building next door, an attorney named Stuart Shaw, sued him for alleged damages to his building during his neighbor’s renovation: walls and floors shifting, the loosening of an elevator shaft, and an unhealthy amounts of dust in the air.

UPPER WEST SIDE

239 Central Park West

Two-bed, two-bath, 2,000-square-foot prewar co-op.

Asking: $1.2 million. Selling: $1.15 million.

Charges: $1,798; 44 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: five months.

FIFTY-YEAR-OLD BROTHERS GO MARTHA STEWART ON THEIR MOTHER’S HOUSE. Two brothers, now in their 50’s, were born and raised in this apartment, which doesn’t have views of the park but once had views of the river (now obstructed by high-rise condos). After their mother died last year, the brothers decided to liquidate her estate–including her apartment, which had appreciated considerably. They made extensive renovations to it, such as new cabinetry in the kitchen, marble floors and granite counters. They also reopened the wood-burning fireplace, which their mother had closed up years ago. The result: a ferocious bidding war for this apartment, and several offers. Of course, the building’s tough co-op board turned them down, one after another, until two couples tugged rope, both equally qualified, but one (ha!) better connected socially. Broker: Halstead Property Company (Andrew Phillips); Douglas Elliman (Louise Phillips, no relation).

GRAMERCY

60 Gramercy Park North

Two-bed, 1.5-bath, 1,050-square-foot prewar co-op.

Asking: $549,000. Selling: $550,000

Charges: $1,113; 50 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: two weeks.

COUPLE CLINGS TO EMERY ROTH APARTMENT. In no time at all, this charming apartment was sold to an eager couple, two attorneys. They didn’t want to enter into a bidding war, so they offered more than the asking price. The couple glided through the board interview. Done deal? Not so fast. They abruptly sent notice to the board that they were filing for divorce and were unsure who would take the apartment. After going through all the trouble of searching for a new home, it’s certainly possible that one or both of them became suddenly horrified at the thought of spending the rest of their lives together. It’s also possible that they just changed their mind about the apartment, wanted their deposit back (10 percent of the asking price) and set themselves up to be turned down by the board. In any case, that left the sellers in a tough position, since they had already gone to contract on their new Upper East Side apartment. Luckily, a couple living upstairs wanted a bigger apartment in this Emery Roth-designed building and stepped in quickly. Now they’ve got their two bedrooms, which come with nine-foot-high ceilings; a powder room off the foyer; prewar details, such as painter’s moldings, hardwood parquet floors, and original tiles in the bathroom; top-of-the-line kitchen appliances, including a dishwasher and microwave; and, as is offered to every apartment in the building, a much coveted key to Gramercy Park. Broker: Halstead (Andrew Phillips and Lisa Fountain); J.&C. Lamb (Jeff Lamb).

SOHO

101 Wooster Street

Two-bed, one-bath, 1,620-square-foot prewar co-op.

Asking: $689,000. Selling: $675,000.

Charges: $882; 50 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: three months.

AROUND THE WORLD ON $675,000. The divorced woman who sold this loft was its first and only occupant. An artist in her 60’s, she had lived here for 15 years before deciding to sell it and free herself to travel. The fifth-floor apartment has 10-foot-high ceilings, lots of light, a washer and dryer, columns along the walls, exposed brick and a fixed-up kitchen with new appliances and ceramic tiles. The building has a sun deck on the roof, storage space and an elevator. This summer, along came a single mother who teaches private dance lessons and is looking eventually to start a theater company. She had owned a town house in the Village and, after her divorce, decided to head farther south. Although she had been shown other apartments, the size and location of this one made her pirouette right over to her checkbook. The deal closed in mid-September. Broker: Corcoran Group (Perrie Gurfein, Linda Partland, Meredith Hatfield).

TRIBECA

55 White Street

One-bed, 2.5-bath, 2,400-square-foot condo.

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

Charges: $725; taxes: $498.

Time on the market: six months.

WHO GIVES UP 2,400 SQUARE FEET IN TRIBECA? A couple left this apartment–and the city–but not before collecting what they had coming to them as owners of a ground-floor triplex with 15-foot-high ceilings, hardwood floors, Corinthian columns, a wood-burning fireplace, a marble bath and a modern kitchen. The apartment faces south into a courtyard. Money can buy happiness. Broker: Corcoran (Dorothy Zeidman, Joanne Benedict).

DITMAS PARK

447 East 17th Street

Six-bed, 2.5-bath, 3,000-square-foot house.

Asking: $575,000. Selling: $537,500.

Time on the market: three weeks.

DRIVEWAY–A NOUN MEANING FREE PARKING SPACE. This Victorian home is located on a landmark block in one of the nation’s oldest suburbs; it’s on the south side of Prospect Park, Brooklyn, less than 40 minutes from Manhattan. The sellers, both in the restaurant management business, had lived here for five years with their two children before being transferred to Seattle. Their forest green house is in great condition and boasts a large front porch with columns; formal dining room (three words rarely uttered in Manhattan); basement and attic; stained glass in a bathroom and in one of the bedrooms; hardwood floors; yard and driveway (you can find those unfamiliar words in the dictionary). The buyers, a Citibank employee and his wife, have two children and just moved to town from Pittsburgh. Broker: Corcoran’s Brooklyn Landmark (William Stephen).