New $15 Million Deal: C.I.B.C. Director Wants 1115 Fifth Penthouse

Dean Kehler, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce managing director who earned about $1.2 billion in 1997 investing in fiber optics, has agreed to pay $15 million for a 14-room apartment at 1115 Fifth Avenue. According to real estate sources, the banker signed a contract for that amount for a duplex penthouse at the southeast corner of 93rd Street and Fifth Avenue in early January, just four hours after the first potential buyer was allowed in.

“That’s pretty near a record,” said one broker.

Mr. Kehler told The Observer , “I will not comment on personal information.” But brokers insist he will be meeting the 1115 Fifth Avenue co-op board, presided over by Bruno Quinson, within a few weeks.

Mr. Kehler participated in a series of lucrative deals in the 1980′s with Drexel Burnham, but his fortune soared in 1997 when, at C.I.B.C., he invested in Global Crossing Ltd., a Bermuda-based firm founded by Gary Winnick that in a venture with Microsoft Corporation and Softbank Corporation was laying undersea cable for high-speed voice and data transmission. (Mr. Winnick failed to buy his own Upper East Side co-op when he was rejected by the co-op board of 810 Fifth Avenue on Jan. 4.)

More recently, in early January, a private equity fund that Mr. Kehler partially manages, Trimaran Fund II L.L.C., took over The Village Voice and six other alternative newspapers from Stern Publishing Inc. for an estimated $150 million.

According to a source, Mr. Kehler and his wife, Elizabeth, currently live at 1192 Park Avenue and have been looking for a bigger apartment. This one, at 1115 Fifth Avenue, whose entrance is on 93rd Street, is next door to the Jewish Museum. The 6,000-square-foot duplex features Central Park and reservoir views, a wrap-around terrace over Fifth Avenue, two living rooms, a paneled library, and five master bedrooms–a total of 14 rooms. The seller is Louis Marx Jr., a venture capitalist whose $77 million private fund is called Marx’s Victory Ventures. He was also the heir to his father’s toy company, Louis Marx & Company, which produced Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots in the 60′s. The toy company was sold to Quaker Oats Company in 1972 for $52 million.

Like many of the grand residences that go on the market, this one, according to brokers, is also going to cost dearly in renovations. “It needs everything from soup to nuts,” said one broker.

“It hasn’t been touched in 30 years,” reported another broker. “The few brokers who showed it agreed that the apartment needs a great deal of work.”

The apartment was first rumored to be going on the market in April 1997. The same situation arose in March 1998, until the seller announced that the home was “permanently off the market.” That decision was reversed when it was given an asking price of $15 million at the beginning of the year. Mr. Marx and Neil Gallagher, the broker from Brown Harris Stevens who sold the apartment to Mr. Kehler, would not comment.

The asking price didn’t seem to surprise real estate insiders, given the booming economy and the allure of living in Carnegie Hill. “What people are willing to pay–and how quickly–for outdoor space on Fifth Avenue is unbelievable,” said a broker familiar with the deal. “People seem to be willing to pay really incredible numbers for apartments in high apartment buildings.”

And this building in particular has a bit of a pedigree. Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger, daughter of Adolph S. Ochs, the founder of The New York Times , lived at 1115 Fifth Avenue after the death of her husband, former Times publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger.

AMAGANSETT, L.I.

AU REVOIR, HAMPTONS: PETER MAYLE SKIPS TOWN Peter Mayle, the British expatriate and author, fled the French countryside after his books about Provence became best sellers, seeking privacy in the most unlikely of places: the Hamptons. But, after this past summer season, Mr. Mayle has fled the East End, too.

In September, Mr. Mayle sold his two-story house in Amagansett for $2.2 million to his friend, Murray L. Smith, who told The Observer that he was “in the communications business.” The deal was done directly between the two gentleman and no brokers were involved.

Like Mr. Mayle’s images of Provence, his former Cape Cod-style home at 115 Water’s Edge Road is “rustic but elegant,” said Neil Hausig, a broker at Cook Pony Farm in East Hampton. The five-bedroom place was designed by architect Alfred Scheffer in 1967. It has a shingled roof and a Great Room with a cathedral ceiling made of oak beams and a brick fireplace. With a touch of French country style, there’s another fireplace in the kitchen.

But the best thing about the house is its perch. Ruth Burell-Brown, an associate broker at Cook Pony Farm Real Estate, who sold the house to Mr. Mayle four years ago, said the house is high on a bluff, with “99 steps down to [Gardiner's Bay].” She remembers that Mr. Mayle and his wife, Jennie, were looking for waterfront property, but also flat land for their two dogs. “The views were incredible, and the house itself was one of Mr. Scheffer’s best,” she said. “The style was one of elegant simplicity.”

Mr. Smith, who moved into Mr. Mayle’s old house from another on Meeting House Lane, which he sold for $1.6 million, said, “It’s got the best views in the Hamptons.”

The vacant lot next to the house, which Mr. Mayle also owned, was sold to another of his friends, Richard LaPlante, a science fiction writer. Mr. Mayle and Mr. LaPlante would not comment on the deal.

UPPER EAST SIDE

16 East 98th Street

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,200-square-foot prewar co-op.

Asking: $750,000. Selling: $730,000.

Charges: $ 1,391; 50 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: one month.

GARDENER ON THE ROOF This penthouse in swanky Carnegie Hill didn’t require brokers to attract a buyer: It’s on the 10th floor, completely renovated, with a wood-burning fireplace and an 800-square-foot terrace that wraps part of the way around the apartment. The views–which include Central Park and the onion domes of the Russian Orthodox Church–are said to be spectacular. There’s a maid’s room off the windowed kitchen, but no wall between the living and dining areas, creating a bright, open space. The seller, who has retired and moved to Sarasota, Fla., is an avid gardener and had installed a computerized irrigation system for her terrace, where she grew herbs, flowers and a couple of trees. The buyers found this listing on the Web, came to see the place on a gloomy winter afternoon and made an offer soon after. A food stylist and a doctor, they were living in a rental. The building has no doorman, but it does offer a common garden, a library and a laundry room. Broker: Halstead Property Company (Roberta Kaye).

530 East 76th Street (Promenade)

One-bed, one-bath, 780-square-foot condo.

Asking: $360,000. Selling: $373,000.

Charges: $695. Taxes: $409.

Time on the market: one week.

HE WANTS WHAT HE CANNOT SEE It might seem rather odd to buy an apartment without having seen it first. But that’s what the buyer of this apartment did. The place went on the market at $360,000 and immediately got an offer of $350,000 (from someone who, by the way, had seen the apartment a year ago when it was priced at $325,000). Then a second buyer came along and offered the asking price, which made things interesting. A bidding war ensued and a third buyer, a businessman–apparently more than a little eager–entered the fray at $373,000, having never set foot in the place. It wasn’t until just before signing the contract that he came by to check the place out. He already knew that the building, the Promenade, offers a pool, health club, conference room, doorman and concierge. It turns out, his new apartment has a marble bathroom with separate steam shower stall; herringbone oak floors; custom lighting; and custom-built closets. In the living room, a mirrored wall reflects the East River. The sellers are renting an apartment in the building until something larger comes on the market. That’s blind love. Broker: William B. May (Eric Ozada).

UPPER WEST SIDE

323 West 83rd Street

Two-bed, one-bath, 1,000-square-foot prewar co-op.

Asking: $445,000. Selling: $435,000.

Charges: $662.68; 67 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: one month.

WHAT THEY TEACH YOU AT HARVARD: AIM SMALLER! The sellers lived on this tree-lined block for a few years, but fled the city for Long Island, in search of more space after the birth of their second child. For a second-floor apartment, this place has abundant sunlight. It was renovated by the sellers, but the prewar details have remained, including the original hardwood floors and French doors leading to the master bedroom. The building has no doorman, but its location–between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive–makes it highly desirable. The buyer, a single woman, had been living in Paris before returning to America to attend Harvard Business School. Then she moved to Manhattan to seek her fortune, renting an apartment while searching for a place to buy. She was hoping to land in the west 70′s, and even bid on an apartment on West 75th Street, but lost it. This apartment cost less and was smaller than the previous apartment, but she liked its location, spacious closets and the fact that all it needs is a paint job. Broker: Bellmarc Realty (Ray Abend, Bunny Ferrer).

GREENWICH VILLAGE

357 West 12th Street

One-bed, one-bath, 850-square-foot condo.

Asking: $479,000. Selling: $450,000.

Charges: $369. Taxes: $400.

Time on the market: three days.

A SHAGGY DOG STORY, TIMES TWO When the broker got this listing, there was a renter in the apartment–an ad executive with two big shaggy dogs. The broker was eager to hold an open house, so she cleverly hired a dog walker for the occasion. She also placed scented candles in the apartment and put on some groovy music. Nearly 40 people showed up, and one woman–who works for an accessories manufacturer–liked the apartment an awful lot. She’d been renting in the far less hip Murray Hill, and knew this was not an apartment to pass up. She sent an e-mail to the broker the following day, asking to see the place one more time. She brought her brother along, then made an offer. If it weren’t so frigid out, she could let it air out while she enjoyed the planted terrace with a small picket fence. Broker: Corcoran Group (Katie Brown).

77 Bleecker Street (Bleecker Court)

Two-bed, three-bath, 1,800 square-feet prewar co-op.

Asking: $695,000. Selling: $683,000.

Charges: $1,955; 56 percent tax-deductible.

Time on the market: three months.

MERCER. BROADWAY. MAN. WOMAN. It’s a triplex. It’s a block from SoHo, between Mercer Street and Broadway. It has exposed brick walls, floor-to-ceiling windows, lots of closets, a Jacuzzi in the master bathroom. Seventeen-foot-high ceilings. Hardwood floors. The building is a prewar co-op, with a full-time doorman and concierge, and a common roof deck. The sellers–a woman who works in commercial real estate management and her banker husband–have moved to San Francisco. Broker: Corcoran Group (Shelly Russell, Nina Phillips).

Correction

In the Jan. 24 issue, an item about Betsey Johnson’s new home in East Hampton misidentified contractor Joel Bass of Rincon Construction. Mr. Bass is the husband of Lisa Kenny Bass, a broker on Ms. Johnson’s deal, not the boyfriend of Susan Green, the other broker involved, who is also married.