When Donald Trump completed his sprawling luxury development near Riverside Park, a few celebrity buyers headed over there to grab sleek high-rise apartments overlooking the Hudson River.
Talk-show host Montel Williams was one of them. Actually, he was three of them, purchasing three units in two buildings, at 200 and 220 Riverside Boulevard.
And while Mr. Williams got rid of a condo at No. 200 in 2003, he’s now also sold off the two penthouse units at No. 220.
Back in June 2005, Mr. Williams successfully unloaded one penthouse unit for $2.275 million, and he has just sold the second for $5.7 million, according to deed-transfer records.
While closing two real-estate deals is certainly reason to celebrate, Mr. Williams had plenty of trouble completing the second transaction.
In February 2005, he initially put the second penthouse unit on the market for $6 million, listed with broker Cuqui Hughes of the Trump Organization. Two months later, $100,000 was chopped off the asking price.
That price drop helped bring in the potential buyers, John and Vicki Andrinopoulos—Mr. Williams’ downstairs neighbors. In July 2005, the couple signed a contract to purchase the apartment for $5.65 million. By October, the deal should have been done—that is, until the two sides began disagreeing over a closing date.
So Mr. Williams filed a lawsuit, which alleged that the couple was required to pay him $282,500 up front, followed by monthly installments of $20,000 until closing. Claiming a breach of contract, Mr. Williams petitioned the court to award him the $342,500 total down payment, which was being held in escrow.
Just recently, the lawsuit was settled, according to a source familiar with the proceedings, and Mr. Williams’ neighbors managed to get out of the deal. Fortunately for Mr. Williams, he was able to find another buyer who was willing to pay a bit more than the Andrinopouloses. (However, even at that increased selling price, Mr. Williams brought in roughly $750,000 less than he paid for the 10-room spread in 2004.)
Now, the unnamed buyer—who snatched up the second penthouse unit without a broker, according to a source—has plenty of work ahead of them: Mr. Williams’ 4,300-square-foot apartment is being delivered as raw space. (“Bring your imagination and an architect!” stated the listing.) Other amenities in the Costas Kondylis–designed tower include a 24-hour doorman, health club, pool and conference room.
Real-estate travails aside, Mr. Williams continues to battle against multiple sclerosis while still hosting his Emmy Award–winning talk show (now in its 15th season) and penning motivational books.
Mr. Williams couldn’t be reached for comment by press time. A lawyer for Mr. Williams declined to comment. Ms. Hughes declined to comment.
“I NEED TO PARE DOWN MY LIFE in a manageable way,” said singer and activist Harry Belafonte, regarding his desire to move out of the West End Avenue apartment that he’s called home for 46 years. “My wife and I decided that now would be a good time to sell.”
Last August, Mr. Belafonte first put the 21-room co-op on the market for $15 million, listed with Prudential Douglas Elliman. Two million dollars was shaved off the asking price before the end of 2005. But no affluent buyer snatched it up at that price.
“My children are grown up and gone,” he continued. “It’s an enormous overhead. I have stepped away from my active career involvement. I have no more interest in performing. I am getting more and more involved in social activism.”
So now, Mr. Belafonte has cut the price yet again—down to $11.75 million—and also swapped brokerage firms, now listing the apartment with Sherry Matays and Julianne Bond, of the Corcoran Group.
Mr. Belafonte’s full-floor spread measures over 7,200 square feet, the result of combining two units several decades ago.
“I made a small breakthrough, bringing the A and the B side into one sweep,” said Mr. Belafonte, of his combined apartment. “Not only did we entertain a lot, but it gave us the opportunity to have one side of the apartment for the family. The other side was for guests and parties.”
In addition to a grand entertaining space, there are six bedrooms and six baths, as well as a maid’s room (and bath). Other notable features include four wood-burning fireplaces, herringbone floors and the original details.
In the early 1960’s, Mr. Belafonte—along with two other residents—devised a plan to overcome the prejudices of the building’s landlord, who refused to allow black tenants to buy apartments. Under a corporate name, the three men purchased the entire building and spearheaded a co-op conversion. Numerous stage and screen stars of the era lived at this fashionable address, including Lena Horne.
In addition to the entertainment world icons, the home was also visited by countless political heavyweights of the last century.
“Eventually, when life began to evolve, it became a perfect place for many of my colleagues,” he said. “Dr. [Martin Luther] King wrote many of his speeches here. Many meetings were held here to strategize things that went on in the [civil rights] movement.”
And when he was running for President, then-Senator John F. Kennedy visited the West End Avenue apartment. “He wanted me to endorse him, to campaign for him, and come work for him,” said Mr. Belafonte. “We had a lot to talk about. He was still, to us, an enigma.”
Mr. Belafonte continues to champion many political causes, while speaking his mind throughout world (and even meeting with controversial figures like Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez).
But despite traveling extensively, the calypso star says he will not leave Manhattan altogether.
“I’d like to have a smaller place in the city—in the Upper West Side,” said Mr. Belafonte. “I don’t think the West Side has changed as dramatically as other parts of the city.”
Ms. Matays and Ms. Bond didn’t return calls for comment.
YOU MAY NOT HAVE HEARD OF 35-YEAR-OLD Doug Lebda, but Wall Street has. And now that he’s moved here to New York—and to a $10.9 million Central Park West penthouse—you probably will.
In December, Mr. Lebda became president and chief operating officer of Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp—a media conglomerate that includes Expedia, Ticketmaster, the Home Shopping Network and Match.com. The company also owns LendingTree, the online mortgage business of the ubiquitous television ads that Mr. Lebda founded in the mid-1990’s after dropping out of business school, then sold to Mr. Diller for a reported $734 million in 2003.
Mr. Lebda’s new digs befit his young-mogul status. Once asking $12.975 million, the duplex apartment’s price was reduced to $10 million in January 2006, listed with the Corcoran Group.
That market-friendly drop certainly did the trick; multiple bids were placed, and Mr. Lebda emerged from the pack with a signed a contract in early February.
Perhaps the seller was eager to unload the 4,790-square-foot spread, considering that he had run into serious trouble with the law. He is advertising executive Norman Chanes, who pled guilty in 2004 to charges stemming from a telephone and Internet pornography scam run by the Gambino crime family.
Legal troubles aside, there were also the awfully vocal activists (think bullhorns) pacing the sidewalk of this ritzy neighborhood. For a couple years, animal-rights protesters regularly targeted building resident Andrew Baker, the chief executive of Huntingdon Life Sciences, a company that tests on animals, according to The New York Times.
In late 1998, the Related Companies spearheaded a substantial upgrade of the 38-unit building and quickly attracted some wealthy buyers. Oil scion Nelson Rockefeller Jr.—son of the late Vice President Nelson Rockefeller—picked up a ninth-floor apartment in 2001.
Also, the late director Stanley Kubrick once lived in the building, and he reportedly built an exact replica of his pad to serve as the set for the lavish residence of the Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman characters in Eyes Wide Shut.
So what does Mr. Lebda get for all those millions?
Well, the five-bedroom, four-bath duplex features multiple exposures and wrap terraces offering superb park and city views. The upper level includes a living room, library, powder room, windowed eat-in kitchen and master-bedroom suite. The media room and gym are located one floor below and reached by way of a “floating staircase.” Vastly renovated, the apartment also features honed limestone floors and custom-built cabinetry.
And not only does Mr. Lebda now have a posh Manhattan residence to call home, but he’ll soon have a swank (architecturally significant) office in the coming years. IAC’s future company headquarters—designed by Frank Gehry—is currently taking shape in West Chelsea, overlooking the Hudson River.
Whether Mr. Lebda utilized LendingTree for his personal-mortgage needs is unknown; the executive declined to comment.