Seagram heir Edgar Bronfman Jr. this week put his double-wide East 64th Street townhouse on the market for a near-record high of $40 million-just as neighbor and billionaire art dealer Alec Wildenstein put his own mansion on the market for $35 million right next-door.
Mr. Bronfman’s 31-foot-wide mansion, at 15 East 64th Street, sports a limestone façade on a block between Madison and Fifth avenues studded with similar opulent residences belonging to the likes of designer Donatella Versace, Sony chief Tommy Mottola, Donald-ex Ivana Trump and Mr. Wildenstein.
Mr. Bronfman, who serves on Vivendi’s board of directors as vice chairman, bought his five-story residence in 1994 for $4.375 million, but he and his Venezuelan wife, Clarissa Alcock Bronfman, didn’t move in until sweeping renovations were finished-five years later.
On move-in day, in September of 1999, Mr. Bronfman threw open the doors of his newly renovated mansion to The New York Times ‘ House & Home section, for an article that detailed extravagances like a sky-lit, two-and-a-half-story atrium court and a complex puzzle of hidden upstairs bedrooms.
“It’s a very exciting renovation,” said Larry Kaiser, president of Key Ventures Realty, who has been to parties at the house. “It’s a lovely, beautiful, airy place that’s young and open.”
The Bronfmans had hired Canadian architect Peter Rose-who designed the Canadian Center for Architecture-to mastermind the townhouse’s conversion from a nine-unit apartment building into a single-family townhouse.
Over the next five years, Mr. Rose gave the nearly 15,000-square-foot townhouse a neat divide between the lower three “public” floors-the living room, dining room and library-and the upper two “private” floors comprising the bedrooms-which, according to The New York Times , can only be reached “if you know which white panel is a secret door to a network of back stairs and hallways.”
The day after the Times piece appeared, however, the New York Post reported that the article had angered Seagram shareholders, who watched their stock in the company drop 10 percent while Mr. Bronfman minced about those secret stairways.
This October, the 47-year-old Mr. Bronfman-by now Vivendi’s vice chairman-told the Los Angeles Times : “My focus is entirely on trying to help all of the stakeholders, management and shareholders, to recapture the value that has been squandered and formulate a future that is exciting.”
Mr. Bronfman will now have to widen that focus to include the search for a suitor for his $40 million trophy property. Though most brokers called the asking price excessive, they all admitted that the residence is an architectural masterpiece.
Just next-door to the Bronfman house, the townhouse that was once the locus of one of New York’s most sensational divorce battles is going on the market for $35 million. International art dealer Alec Wildenstein is listing his family-owned townhouse at 11 East 64th Street-the residence in which he allegedly threatened his wife, Jocelyne, with a gun after she found him sharing his bed with another woman.
A judge barred Mr. Wildenstein from his home after the allegation was made, and the divorce saga that ensued spilled across the front pages of tabloids throughout much of 1997 and ’98. The otherwise-private Wildenstein family-who are some of the most important art collectors and dealers in the world-had to wage a very public court battle to force Ms. Wildenstein to vacate the 64th Street townhouse, which she did in the spring of 1999, when a judge finally granted her a divorce on the grounds of sexual abandonment. She soon moved into a townhouse on East 82nd Street owned by Reagan White House veteran media advisor Fred Levinson.
Not that living arrangements in the house were ever typical. For years, Alec and Jocelyne Wildenstein occupied the third floor, and Alec’s younger brother, Guy-president of Wildenstein & Co.-lived with his wife on the fourth floor, while the children of both couples were quartered on the fifth floor.
The Wildenstein family-whose patriarch, Daniel, died in 2001-owns four other properties on the block; the family’s holdings were estimated in 1999 to total $5 billion.
The five-story, 29-foot-wide limestone townhouse at No. 11 East 64th Street is built out to the property line of the 100-foot lot, and with its basement and sub-basement, brokers estimated that the house offers 20,000 square feet. There’s also a pool and an original winding staircase from the house’s construction in the 19th century.
“It’s one of the most incredible limestone mansions to come on the market in decades,” said one broker who has toured the property.
Mr. Kaiser said the place felt a little dark when compared to the townhouse owned by Mr. Bronfman next-door.
Of course, one could always buy both and combine them. In fact, a buyer with $109 million on hand could buy three houses in a row on East 64th Street: Not only are the houses of Mr. Bronfman and Mr. Wildenstein for sale, but Mr. Wildenstein’s neighbor, Sony head Tommy Mottola, is listing his condo-which occupies most of the townhouse at 9 East 64th Street-for $34 million.
415 East 52nd Street
Two-bedroom, two-bathroom co-op.
Asking: $775,000. Selling: $775,000.
Maintenance: $1,164; 61 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: 45 days.
FIRST TIME’S A CHARM “I only had to show them this one apartment, and I thought they were all going to be easy like this,” said Chris Seiden, a broker at Bellmarc Properties, of the gay couple she met at an open house-and who became the first clients in her new career as a Manhattan apartment broker. Her clients-one’s a psychologist in private practice, the other does graphic design for a large financial institution-were checking out the place, too, and Ms. Seiden turned on the charm. “We’re not going to get into a bidding war for this apartment, are we?” Ms. Seiden joked-mainly as a way of introducing herself as a real-estate agent. The maneuver worked, and Ms. Seiden got them interested in another place she had in mind. Apparently the mint-condition, 1,300-square-foot co-op on East 52nd Street was just what they had in mind, too-because Ms. Seiden had an accepted offer at the asking price in under a week. “I thought they would all fall out of trees like that,” she said. “Life’s gotten a lot more difficult since then.” She’s not the only broker saying that-though being new at the game might make it that much harder to take. “I had to show my second customer 12 apartments,” Ms. Seiden said, “and I’ve shown my third customer 25 apartments-and we still don’t have a deal.”
845 United Nations Plaza (Trump World Tower)
Two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom condo
Asking: $2,266,800. Selling: $1,850,000.
Charges: $1,409. Taxes: $1,792.
Time on the market: 22 months.
DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE The young plastic surgeon who bought this sponsor unit at Trump World Tower got to know his broker by killing two of his other deals. The surgeon’s cousin-a lawyer-had hired Insignia Douglas Elliman broker Dennis Mangone to find him and his wife an apartment on the Upper East Side. Each time the lawyer and his wife found a place they liked, they would call their cousin-the plastic surgeon-to give the final approval. “If [the couple] liked it, all of a sudden I would have to show it to all three of them the next time,” said Mr. Mangone. After the plastic surgeon nixed two apartments his cousin and his wife seemed otherwise happy with, Mr. Mangone admitted to feeling “a little pissed off.” But the plastic surgeon quickly ameliorated the situation. “Hey,” he said, according to Mr. Mangone, “I’m looking for an apartment, too. Do you have something for me?” So Mr. Mangone invited both parties to check out some apartments at Trump World Tower. When they showed up, 14 family members had come along for the ride-and five of them were doctors. “There was an ear, nose and throat doctor, a podiatrist, an anesthesiologist, an ophthalmologist and a dentist,” said Mr. Mangone. “We had to use two elevator cars to get them up to the apartments.” This time, the extra vote-casters worked in Mr. Mangone’s favor: The plastic surgeon and his cousin both found apartments they ended up buying. The plastic surgeon’s new home has 2,000 square feet and north and east river views. “An adverse situation turned into a real happy ending,” said Mr. Mangone.
The Sachs Appeal: Columbia Buys $8 M. Townhouse for New Econ Star
Economist Jeffrey Sachs serves as an economic adviser to governments all over the world. But he couldn’t protect his new employer, Columbia University, from a bidding war over an Upper West Side townhouse that drove the school to spend $8 million-$500,000 over the asking price-on the 20-foot-wide home. At $1,334 a square foot, that’s the most expensive single-family townhouse in the history of the Upper West Side.
The townhouse will serve as a hospitality center for the world leaders who hang on Mr. Sachs’ analyses, as well as a home for the professor and his family.
Columbia hired Mr. Sachs away from Harvard University in April to helm its new Earth Institute, an international-outreach program aimed at fostering collaboration between the university and global leaders. The university has reserved the ground floor of Mr. Sachs’ new home-at 52 West 85th Street-as a permanent reception lounge for the Earth Institute’s international visitors.
“It’s a place where international dignitaries, donors and scholars will be received as a part of the university’s growing global outreach,” said university spokeswoman Lauren Marshall. “The house will be used to house scientists, economists and international leaders in government and business for dinners, receptions and informal discussions.”
Ms. Marshall confirmed that Mr. Sachs-who is also a special adviser to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan-will be “paying rent, like all faculty do for university-owned housing.”
Mr. Sachs declined to comment on the arrangement, but an administrator at the Earth Institute denied that Columbia bought the house as a way of sweetening the deal they were offering Mr. Sachs while he was still at Harvard.
“Long before they discussed details like that,” said the Earth Institute’s Mary Ellen Gallagher, “I know that Jeffrey Sachs said that he wanted the job. There was no ‘Give me this or I’m not coming.’ That’s not the way the negotiations went.”
Standing five stories tall and 20 by 55 feet, the 6,200-square-foot building is comparable to many in the neighborhood.
“That’s 30 percent more than anyone has paid on the Upper West Side for a 20-footer,” said Jed Garfield, a broker at Leslie J. Garfield & Co., one of the city’s most respected townhouse-brokerage firms.
“It was identified as a strategic piece of real estate,”Ms. Marshall explained.
Prior to this sale, the most expensive townhouse purchases on the Upper West Side were a 30-foot-wide townhouse at 41 Riverside Drive that sold for $7.69 million in 2000, and a 23-foot-wide townhouse at 318 West 81st Street that closed for $6.75 million in 1999.
According to townhouse brokers, it simply looks as though Columbia signed the contract at what turned out to be the height of the market, in February.
“In retrospect, if you had to pick a date to sell your place, you would have picked February,” said Daniel Douglas, one of the Corcoran Group’s top West Side brokers.
According to city records, the house’s previous owners bought it in 1997 for $1.67 million. Then they gut-renovated the place and put it back on the market in June for $7.2 million. At that point, Ms. Marshall said, a bidding war ensued, and the asking price rose to $7.5 million.
“Suddenly, people wanted a house in that area, and there wasn’t anything else around,” said Anne Snee, a townhouse broker and senior vice president at the Corcoran Group, who toured the property. “It’s a beautiful house, and it was there in the right place and the right time.”
The townhouse’s gut renovation preserved some of the original woodwork; the first floor-the reception lounge-has a chef’s kitchen and a south-facing garden. The upper four levels-the Sachs family residence-contain six bedrooms, a dumbwaiter elevator system and several wood-burning fireplaces.