Lily Safra has thrown in the towel on her nearly three-year-long push to sell her unfinished ninth-floor condo at 838 Fifth Avenue, real-estate sources close to the proceedings said. According to sources, Ms. Safra—the widow of late banking magnate Edmond Safra, who died when a fire swept through his Monte Carlo duplex penthouse in December 1999—has taken the family’s $15 million raw-space apartment off the market. Sources close to the building said Ms. Safra intends to give the property to her son. Ms. Safra was not available for comment.
“They’re not showing it anymore,” a source with knowledge of the property said. “After all this, she decided she doesn’t want to sell.”
The 4,500-square-foot apartment sits on the ninth floor of the former office building at the corner of 65th Street and Fifth Avenue, and is most notable for its 800-square-foot terrace overlooking Central Park.
“The terrace is the size of many Manhattan one-bedrooms,” another broker who has toured the place said.
The spread also includes six park-facing windows and two wood-burning fireplaces. The former home of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations was converted to residential use and developed by the Athena Group, and drew A-list tenants including Alfred Taubman; investor Michael Price, who paid $13.7 million for the 10th-floor spread in January 2001; and Seagram co-chair Charles Bronfman, who doled out $18 million for a penthouse duplex covering the 11th and 12th floors.
According to sources, the apartment had been offered through Ms. Safra’s attorney and no brokers had a signed exclusive. As of Oct. 19, the listing was still active on Corcoran’s Web site under brokers Sharon Baum and Victoria Terri-Cote. Brown Harris Stevens broker Maria Torresy also had shown the apartment.
Ms. Torresy declined to comment on the listing, and Ms. Baum did not return calls for comment.
Now that the 838 Fifth perch will stay in the Safra family, the apartment joins a pedigreed real-estate portfolio. Ms. Safra, one of the wealthiest women in the world, owns homes including a $40-plus million six-story mansion in London as well as New York properties that have included a penthouse at 820 Fifth Avenue, which she sold to Hovnanian Enterprises chief executive Ara Hovnanian for around $20 million in August 2003, after first listing the spread for $30 million in 2002.
Avon cosmetics heiress Sandra McConnell has gone to contract on her massive Georgian townhouse at 12 Sutton Square, sources close to the property told The Observer. The 11,500-square-foot mansion carried a $19.5 million asking price before a buyer signed a contract on the spread last week. Listing broker Dolly Lenz of Douglas Elliman declined to comment on the sale. At press time, the buyer’s identity and financial terms of the sale were not available.
The 23-room red-brick mansion has interior luxuries including a media room, a spiral staircase and a finished basement, as well as a private garage and two elevators. The home’s manicured private lawn leads to its very own East River frontage, a Hamptons staple but a rarity in Manhattan’s concrete province.
The pending sale concludes a decades-long real-estate saga for Ms. McConnell, the widow of Avon heir Neil McConnell, the scion of the Avon cosmetics fortune that dates to the company’s founding in 1886. City records show Ms. McConnell purchased the townhouse in August 1973 for $200,000. The five-story Sutton Square spread landed on the market in 1994 with Stribling and Associates, and the property floated on and off the market for nearly a decade until Ms. Lenz picked up the listing in 2003. Even with its $19.5 million asking price, the new buyer may find the property requires further investment.
“It needs everything, it hasn’t been renovated in years,” a broker who has shown the property said.
But the buyer will join an elite group of townhouse owners in the luxurious enclave abutting the East River. Fellow Sutton residents include architect I.M. Pei, Lower Manhattan Development Corporation chairman John C. Whitehead and Cox Communications heiress Margaretta (Retta) Taylor, who purchased the townhouse at 2 Sutton Square for just shy of $10 million in January 2001.
Residents of the über-exclusive co-op at 4 East 66th Street may have been a bit flummoxed when a recent article in the New York Post informed them that hedge-fund executive David Ganek and his wife Danielle were the mystery buyers of the seventh-floor apartment belonging to Hollywood producer Leonard Goldberg. The apartment carried a $25 million asking price and had gone to contract in May.
But according to sources close to the co-op—that over the years has been home to British Consul General Sir Thomas Harris, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Sid and Mercedes Bass, Ace Greenberg and Veronica Hearst—the buyer was not Mr. Ganek, but rather Forest Laboratories C.E.O. Howard Solomon. The $25 million spread has four bedrooms, four and a half bathrooms, five wood-burning fireplaces, a formal dining room and a master suite with his-and-her bathrooms and dressing rooms.
Through a spokesperson, Mr. Ganek confirmed in an e-mail to The Observer that he did not purchase the apartment: “Mr. Ganek confirms that he was not the one that purchased that apartment mentioned in the NY Post,” the statement read.
Real-estate sources close to the building told The Observer that Mr. Solomon purchased the property. Mr. Solomon declined to comment; likewise, listing broker Mara Gardner of Brown Harris Stevens did not return calls for comment.
As the chairman and C.E.O. of Forest Laboratories, Mr. Solomon presides over the pharmaceutical juggernaut that makes such popular medications as the anti-depressants Lexapro and Celexa, and the Alzheimer’s treatment Namenda. Founded in 1954, the Manhattan-based company employs 5,000 and in 2004 its recorded revenues topped $2.4 billion.
When not being pegged as a buyer of exclusive Manhattan real estate, Mr. Ganek runs the Greenwich, Conn.–based Level Global hedge fund, with 2003 assets reported at $3.8 billion. Along with his wife, he is also a prominent art collector.
4 East 66th Street has spent considerable time in the real-estate headlines in recent months. In January, the British government sold the lavish state-owned apartment belonging to Consul General Sir Thomas Harris for $12.5 million. The sale was followed by a board turndown in February on the fourth-floor apartment belonging to the late Kay Jeffords, the owner of the celebrated horse Lonesome Glory. The Jeffords estate signed a contract on the six-bedroom thoroughbred-themed apartment for about $14 million, but when the deal fell through, soon relisted the place and found a new buyer in June who ponied up close to $16 million for the fourth-floor spread. On the seventh floor, Mr. Goldberg and his wife had been quietly shopping around their $25 million apartment for years before officially listing the place with Brown Harris Stevens. Mr. Goldberg, 69, through his production company Mandy Films Inc., has produced hit films including Charlie’s Angels (2000) and its sequel Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003), and the Julia Roberts thriller Sleeping with the Enemy (1991).
Recent Transactions in the Real Estate Market
Upper West Side
119 West 71st Street
Two-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op.
Asking: $625,000. Selling: $620,000.
Maintenance: $867; 50 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: six weeks.
‘SLEEPER’ GETS ASKING—ALMOST The gentleman who lived in this prewar co-op for the past 25 years recently decided to relocate out of the city, and his listing presented a rare opportunity to buy into this 37-unit apartment building between Broadway and Columbus Avenue. “This is a small building and there are not a lot of resales here,” the seller’s broker, Jane Goldberg of Century 21 William B. May, said. The buyer, a real-estate consultant for a major accounting firm, had been renting in the West 50’s before he found this spread. The single gentleman paid nearly asking for the two bedroom, which has 10-foot ceilings and original moldings that date back to 1911. “It’s a sleeper of a building, though it has a lot of charm,” Ms. Goldberg said. James Lake, of Bellmarc Realty, represented the buyer.