Blavatnik’s the Bronfman Buyer! Oil Tycoon Spills $50 M.-Plus for Townhouse

Every kvetching New Yorker wants more space. But only a Russian-born, Harvard-trained oil tycoon would want more legroom than a 14-room Fifth Avenue co-op (bought just this year for $27.5 million) and an East 63rd Street palace (bought two years ago for $31.25 million).

Those properties didn’t content Len Blavatnik. According to two sources, he’s the buyer for Seagram heir Edgar Bronfman Jr.’s 31-foot-wide townhouse at 15 East 64th.

The Observer broke the news in July that Mr. Bronfman, who reportedly paid just $4.375 million in 1994, would be selling the place for somewhere around $51 million.

Mr. Blavatnik and fellow billionaire J. Christopher Flowers (who bought the Harkness Mansion) are now the only two people in history to pay over $50 million for a New York townhouse. Congratulations, Len, you’re the Buzz Aldrin of modern-day real estate.

Renovations by Mr. Bronfman and his wife partially explain the price range: As chronicled in The Times, the house was fitted with a bronze-shaded waxed-steel vestibule, a 2.5-story indoor piazza with Nigerian fertility statue and secret stairways, a balconied master bedroom and children’s playroom, plus a glass-floored library terrace.

Through spokespeople, both buyer and seller declined to comment. (When a reporter phoned up Mr. Blavatnik’s Hamptons house asking for the oil baron, the man who answered the phone said, “This is he.” When that reporter mentioned details about the townhouse, the man said Mr. Blavatnik wasn’t home and hung up.)

If the deal closes at $51 million, Mr. Blavatnik, the founder and chairman of Access Industries, will have spent $109.75 million on Upper East Side real estate since last September. That leaves him with $7.1 billion.

And he won’t be paying any brokers fees. A source said this deal was direct, which would make sense: Mr. Blavatnik is a board member of Warner Music Group, where Mr. Bronfman is chairman and CEO.

Like Mayor Bloomberg, Mr. Blavatnik will probably use one of his mansions for a foundation. His “pasty palace” on East 63rd Street (to quote the AIA Guide to New York City) would make more sense for a nonprofit, considering it was bought from the New York Academy of Sciences.

Board members at 998 Fifth Avenue probably won’t bring over Jell-O molds to celebrate the tycoon’s new townhouse, considering how recently he bought his co-op. (Plus, it reportedly required intervention from lawyers and at least one neighbor for the board to consider Mr. Blavatnik.)

A separate source said he even wanted to buy another spread there, adjoining his $27.5 million co-op—but was spurned. It really is plum hard to find good space these days.