In an industry where salespeople have been known to comb the obituaries for business leads, the torrent of speculation over what would become of John F. Kennedy Jr.’s TriBeCa apartment after his death on July 16 was no big surprise. The magazine publisher’s 2,600-square-foot apartment, a penthouse co-op in a modest loft building at 20-26 N. Moore Street, had become the most famous residence in the world. The apartment had set Kennedy back only $700,000 when he bought it in 1994 but, to a broker and some Kennedy collectors at least, the place was now infinitely more valuable.
During the week of Nov. 22, much to the surprise of Manhattan’s real estate community, word got around that the exclusive right to sell the space had been granted to Sotheby’s International Realty, which has opted to market the apartment auction-style: Instead of establishing an official asking price, the firm settled upon an unofficial price floor of $2.5 million, and will entertain offers for an undetermined length of time.
The reaction in the brokerage community was mostly one of shock. “Traditionally, Brown Harris Stevens has handled all the real estate business for that side of the family,” said one downtown real estate broker, who recalled that it was Brown Harris that marketed Jacqueline Onassis’ apartment after her death in 1995. (Her 14-room co-op at 1040 Fifth Avenue was purchased for $9.5 million by oil magnate David Koch and his wife, Julia Koch.)
Sniped one broker, “My understanding is that the president of the board is affiliated with Sotheby’s.”
But, in fact, the president of the co-op board at 20-26 N. Moore is Ruth Hardinger, a broker with Douglas Elliman, Manhattan’s largest residential real estate firm, and the owner of the building’s ground-floor commercial loft. Ms. Hardinger refused to speculate on why Sotheby’s received the Kennedy business. “I can’t comment on any of this stuff,” she said.
Sotheby’s officially began marketing the loft on Nov. 29, the very same day that Kennedy’s magazine, George , hired a new editor, Frank Lalli. Brokers were already bristling at the draconian rules involved in getting in to see the apartment. “They want somebody real, versus a looker,” said one broker with an interested client, “but they turn down everybody who wants to see it.”
Ever since the plane carrying Kennedy, his wife Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and her sister, Lauren Bessette, crashed, broker after broker has attempted to claim ownership of the juicy apartment listing–a status that would guarantee a stream of high-end potential buyers. Around Oct. 11, a Corcoran Group broker posted the apartment on the company’s in-house computer system, pricing the penthouse at $2 million through “the estate of John Kennedy Jr.,” but offering no further information.
Meanwhile, rumors were swirling around the brokerage community about another of the building’s shareholders attempting to buy the ninth-floor unit for themselves, sans real estate agent. Still other brokers, remembering both the 1040 Fifth Avenue sale and the fact that the president of Brown Harris Stevens, Roger Tuckerman, had a sister, Nancy Tuckerman, who was close to Onassis, expected the Kennedy exclusive to be a shoo-in for the uptown real estate firm.
Stephen McRae and Debbie Korb, the Sotheby’s agents handling the sale, will be the ones poring over the financial statements of anyone who wants to view the place and granting the peeks.
Regarding the $2.5 million price guideline, Mary DiLandro, a spokesman for Sotheby’s, said, “We’re sharing that information only with prospective buyers.”
As for the financial statements, she said, “as with any routine co-op sale, they have to prove their financial wherewithal.”
THE MAN WHO CUTS ANNA WINTOUR’S HAIR MOVES TO TRIBECA. Laurent Dufourg is no stranger to celebrity. He is, after all, haircutter to stars galore, including Sharon Stone, Uma Thurman, Elizabeth Shue and Gwyneth Paltrow–and therefore quite a celebrity himself.
Recently, Mr. Dufourg–whose primary residence is in Beverly Hills–bought a 1,500-square-foot pied-à-terre for himself and his wife of 20 years, Fabienne Dufourg, at 168 Duane Street for $736,000. Having opened the Privé Salon in the SoHo Grand hotel last December, he has been spending more time in the city–about two weeks of each month.
“I love New York,” he said in his delicious French accent. “I would love to move here permanently. It’s a different ball game here. Everything is here … I love it better than Paris.”
Mr. Dufourg already handles the hair of just about every fashion magazine editor in town, including Vogue ‘s Anna Wintour and Elle ‘s Sarah Braun, as well as Tina Brown, but he said he’s still building his Manhattan client base.
After searching for a New York address for a whole year, Mr. Dufourg and his wife finally settled on a place near the salon. Price-wise, some might say he got lucky. Very lucky. He wasted no time making an offer on this spacious second-floor, L-shaped loft with 12-foot-high ceilings, columns and giant windows overlooking Duane Park. While renovations are made (as designed by Fabienne Dufourg, who also designed her husband’s salon), the couple is staying at (where else) the SoHo Grand. Construction should be completed in a few weeks.
Since they did their West Coast home all in white, Mr. Dufourg said, they decided to go for a darker color scheme here, and to update the kitchen and bathroom. The kitchen will have a long, narrow stainless steel table for 12 with leather chairs all around; the bathroom will have a large oval frosted glass sink and stone floor. Why not add a jacuzzi while they’re at it? “I have three jacuzzis and a pool in L.A.,” he said. “I don’t need that here.” His favorite thing about his new home is its proximity to work–a 10-minute walk. And, he added gleefully, he lives right next door to Bouley Bakery. “I have my croissant every day. I feel like I’m in France.” Broker: Douglas Elliman (Wilbur Gonzalez).
UPPER WEST SIDE
BENNO SCHMIDT’S OTHER OFFERING: RIVERSIDE DRIVE PENTHOUSE FOR $1.225 MILLION. Benno Schmidt Jr., one of the frontmen of the stillborn Edison Project, raised hackles during his presidency at Yale University in the late 80’s for maintaining a primary home in Manhattan. In fact, Mr. Schmidt practically has a doctorate in Manhattan homes. In July, he sold his latest Manhattan address, a 1,700-square-foot apartment in a condominium building at 222 Riverside Drive, near West 94th Street. The penthouse apartment, which was almost new when he bought it in 1995, was sold to a family of four for $1.225 million.
Prior to purchasing the Riverside Drive apartment, for which he spent $764,000, Mr. Schmidt lived at 12 St. Luke’s Place, a town house between Hudson and Leroy streets in the West Village, with his wife, a documentary filmmaker named Helen Cutting Whitney, and his daughter, Chrissie. The 5,000-square-foot property, which was newly renovated when Mr. Schmidt bought it, cost about $2.8 million in 1992, according to a source familiar with the deal.
At that time Mr. Schmidt–a native Manhattanite who earned his academic stripes as a professor and later was a dean of Columbia Law School–was poised to leave Yale, over which he had presided since 1985. In his seven years as president of the Ivy League school, he had spent a good deal of time commuting via limousine from New York City to New Haven, gaining something of a reputation for absenteeism. (During demonstrations, students were known to carry posters bearing the words “Where’s Benno?”) Finally, in 1992, Mr. Schmidt quit his academic job to join the Edison Project, a for-profit schools-management company founded by Chris Whittle, the former communications mogul. Mr. Schmidt is currently chairman of the venture, which had a disappointing I.P.O. launch on Nov. 10.
Mr. Schmidt put his Riverside Drive apartment on the market in October 1998, at an asking price of $1.295 million, and accepted an offer the following March. The 1,715-square-foot property contains three bedrooms and two baths, spread out over two levels on the building’s 20th and 21st floors. In addition to a 28-foot-long living room, the property boasts a 200-square-foot terrace with views of the Hudson River.
“He made a wise investment in buying it, and had a beautiful home,” said a real estate source with knowledge of the deal, who added that the apartment’s buyers were particularly interested in finding outdoor space.
No. 222 Riverside Drive was built in the late 1980’s, and, after flirting briefly with the rental business, the building’s sponsor began selling off apartments several years later. Jeff Sholeen, a broker who has sold apartments there, said, “What’s nice about it is, there’s at least four floors of setbacks,” he said. “They’ve got quite a bit of privacy and they’re nice terraces.” Mr. Schmidt did not return a call for comment.
160 West 66th Street (3 Lincoln Center)
Four-bed, four-bath, 2,557-square-foot condo.
Asking: $2.025 million. Selling: $1.96 million.
Charges: $1,684. Taxes: $708.
Time on the market: five months.
REBUILDING ON THE 45TH FLOOR. If you don’t actually make beautiful music in this building, you can probably hear it. This luxury high-rise sits atop the Juilliard School at Lincoln Center. This fall, a couple who are moving back to New York from Los Angeles bought two units–45F and 45G–and combined them into one rockin’ eight-room apartment. It was lucky for them that next-door neighbors were both selling their apartments at the same time, a fact they discovered on Corcoran’s Web site. They loved the location (nearby restaurants, shopping and theater), marble baths, high-tech kitchen and abundant light on the 45th floor. The building, which houses a number of well-known actors and musicians, was built in 1990 and boasts a full-time doorman and concierge, a parking garage, a fitness center (with a huge pool) and an entertainment room. The sellers of 45G purchased a bigger place in the building earlier this year, while the other sellers (45F) also left for a bigger place, although not in the building. The buyers will totally reconfigure the space, which won’t be music to their new neighbors. Broker: Corcoran (Beverly Rouse).
UPPER EAST SIDE
188 East 64th Street (Royale)
One-bed, one-bath, 750-square-foot condo.
Asking: $500,000. Selling: $490,000.
Charges: $502.31. Taxes: $390.21.
Time on the market: two weeks.
THIS IS NOT A CURTAIN CALL! An Italian actress bought this 26th-floor apartment near Third Avenue for herself, but, being a worldwide traveler, she never got to live here; she finally decided to sell. Her apartment features a contemporary design, river (and the 59th Street bridge!) views, a balcony off the living room, an open kitchen and a marble bathroom. The building has a full-time doorman and concierge, an entertainment room, a parking garage and a health club. The buyers are a semi-retired theater-world couple who decided to unload their beautiful town house on the same block, since their primary residence is a country house in Connecticut. But they’ll keep one foot on stage, thanks to this pied-à-terre . Broker: P.S. Burnham Inc. (Patricia Burnham); Douglas Elliman (Loren Pavelko).
37 Sidney Place
Two-family, 4.5-story town house.
Asking: $2.4 million. Selling: $2.175 million.
Time on the market: four weeks.
COUPLE FLEES 140-YEAR-OLD HOUSE FOR SHELTER OF PALM TREES. A job opportunity on the West Coast lured a married couple in the financial industry away from this 140-year-old, 4,500-square-foot town house. The buyers owned a co-op, also in Brooklyn Heights, which they sold to buy this massive home. The town house sits on a 135-foot-long lot and has three bedrooms, two and a half baths and an office on the lower levels; the upper duplex has another bedroom and bath, which is where the au pair lived. There’s also a landscaped garden, finished basement and three wood-burning fireplaces. Note to self: Envy is futile. Broker: Harbor View Realty (Barry Dulany).