Banker Jaqui Safra, the nephew of the late billionaire banker Edmond Safra, and his longtime girlfriend, former Woody Allen producer Jean Doumanian, have just entered the Upper East Side’s newest elite.
They’ve put their 50-foot-wide limestone mansion at 4 East 75th Street on the market—quietly—for $50 million.
“Quietly” means you won’t find a listing for the mansion—which has in previous incarnations been called a “French Renaissance” bit of architecture—on any Web site; no brokers will be able to bring you there. There will be no formal listing.
But available it is, according to a source with knowledge of the offering.
The $50 million price tag, once unthinkable for all but the most sprawling Hamptons campuses and private islands, is slowly becoming the high-water mark in Upper East Side real-estate circles.
In recent months, only three other properties have dared to ask so much—and none has yet sold.
There’s the Duke Semans mansion at 1009 Fifth Avenue, the 19,000-square-foot Beaux-Arts palace where rocker Lenny Kravitz is reportedly an interested buyer.
Then there’s the former headquarters of Leslie Wexner’s Limited Brands at 25 East 78th Street, purchased in 2000 by Internet entrepreneur Bryan Zwan for $31.6 million.
And the one non-townhouse entry, a 16-room duplex co-op at River House, where former WorldCom board member Francesco Galesi lives.
Any one of these properties—if sold at asking—would eclipse the residential sales record set by News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch, who purchased the Rockefeller triplex at 834 Fifth Avenue for $44 million.
Rumors circulated among brokers on Oct. 11 that art dealer Larry Gagosian was purchasing Mr. Safra’s house, at its asking price of $50 million. However, a spokesperson for Mr. Gagosian told The Observer that the art mogul has not bought it, nor is he even considering buying the lavish house.
It needs a lot of work, according to one Upper East Side broker who knows the townhouse market.
Built in 1896, the five-story mansion, located between Madison and Fifth avenues, was designed by Trowbridge, Colt & Livingston for shipping magnate Nathaniel McCready. In 1919, Stanley Mortimer purchased the building, and sold it two decades later to former IBM chief Thomas J. Watson Jr. In the 1960’s, after the William Hale Harkness Foundation bought it, the building underwent a massive renovation estimated at $20 million to become the Harkness House for Ballet Arts.
Mr. Safra and Ms. Doumanian bought the house in 1987 for $6.9 million, through a corporate entity. It was the record at the time. And while he has used it as a residence, they have since moved into a penthouse on East 88th Street, leaving the mansion unoccupied.
In 2000, reports surfaced that media mogul Mort Zuckerman was buying it, and two years later there was news that the couple was possibly selling the 25-room house in the $35 to $40 million range.
Despite making real-estate news, Mr. Safra and Ms. Doumanian tended to keep a low-profile. However, they became embroiled in a much-publicized lawsuit in 2002 by a longtime friend and neighbor. Woody Allen sued Sweetland Films—Ms. Doumanian and Mr. Safra’s company—for $12 million regarding profits from eight of his films that Ms. Doumanian produced. After a nine-day trial, they settled out of court.
Ms. Doumanian did not return several calls for comment. Barbara Farah, an assistant to Mr. Safra, declined to comment.
After going through three high-profile owners in the past seven years, the duplex penthouse occupying the 32nd and 33rd floors at 515 Park Avenue has sold for $19 million, according to a source close to the deal.
In February 1998, New Jersey Senator (and current gubernatorial candidate) Jon Corzine purchased the 5,000-square-foot condo in a new construction for $15 million. At the time, Mr. Corzine was chairman and chief executive of Goldman Sachs. However, in the near future a 2000 Senate run would take priority over resting in a posh Manhattan apartment. After winning the election—while breaking campaign-spending records in the process—it seemed like the right time to replenish his personal coffers and put it on the market. A few weeks after Mr. Corzine left for Washington, D.C., the apartment was listed for $21 million.
By April 2001, the asking price was reduced to $19.5 million and eventually sold in August for $18.8 million to record executive (and notoriously fickle buyer) Alan Meltzer. The Wind-Up Entertainment chief also owned a lavish condo at 944 Park Avenue, and decided to stay there until recently. Earlier this year, Mr. Meltzer may have finally found his dream apartment. He dropped $27 million on an 8,600-square-foot, duplex penthouse at 1 Beacon Court, the luxury building that is overflowing with celebrities and moguls, including singer Beyoncé Knowles, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams and ex-G.E. chief Jack Welch.
Owning the 515 Park Avenue spread for about four months, Mr. Meltzer flipped it for a small loss to technology investor Paul E. Colombo for $18.25.
Now Mr. Colombo has turned around and sold it—making only a marginal profit—to a foreign businessman, who purchased it through an L.L.C. The deal closed in July.
The apartment includes four bedrooms, five and a half bathrooms and 1,000-square-foot terrace that wraps around the living room, dining room and library.
Built in 1999, the 43-story tower has only 38 apartments, a dozen of which are duplexes. The full-service building also features a fitness center, wine cellar and library.
Laurance Kaiser IV, president of Key-Ventures Realty, represented the buyer. For over half a year the listing was with Kathleen Sloane of Brown Harris Stevens; however, it eventually fell into the hands of Robin Rothman at Sotheby’s International Realty, who represented the seller.
Oscar de la Renta’s $12.5 M. Neighbor
About seven blocks north up Park Avenue, another buyer has been found for a $12.5 million apartment underneath fashion impresario Oscar de la Renta.
Last March, a contract was signed on the 11-room residence, but the buyer did not pass the co-op board, as The Observer reported. Given the board’s tough reputation, rejection is certainly not unheard of at this address. Even Imelda Marcos had trouble with the board in the early 1980’s when she was looking to buy the building’s 21-room maisonette.
But plenty of notable names have gotten in. The opulent, 13-story building has previously housed industrialist Seton Porter, philanthropist Leslie R. Samuels and, more recently, Susan Bloomberg, the Mayor’s ex-wife, who moved out of the penthouse in 2004.
In July, the 4,600-square-foot apartment came back on the market, and a contract was recently signed, according to the company Web site. Throughout both deals, the apartment has been listed with Cornelia Zagat Eland and Amanda Cannon of Stribling and Associates.
Shelly Ross and David Simone Sell Beekman to Xerox Gal For $2.5 M.
After reducing the asking price and getting a contract signed last June, television producer Shelly Ross and her husband, music executive David Simone, have sold their Beekman Regent condo to Xerox executive Ursula Burns for $2.5 million, according to deed-transfer records. The deal finally closed in late September.
The apartment first came on the market in February with a $2.85 million price tag, about a month before Ms. Ross left Primetime Live to produce segments for ABC News. The 1,759-square-foot condo included three bedrooms and three bathrooms. In mid-July, The Observer reported that the couple slashed the asking price by $350,000, and quickly attracted a then-unknown buyer.
Ms. Burns has been working at Xerox, climbing the corporate ladder to her current position as president of business group operations, a $14 billion organization. In February of this year, Black Enterprise named her one of “The 75 Most Powerful Blacks in Corporate America.”
Brokers Sheila Lokitz and Elliot Lokitz of the Corcoran Group had the listing. Ms. Lokitz confirmed the deal closed.