Met Museum Chairman Houghton Gets $4.9 M. for Majestic Co-Op

When the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s colossal 71-year-old director Philippe de Montebello announced his upcoming retirement last month, New York’s patrician class wept and gnashed its teeth. Mr. de Montebello, a descendent of Napoleonic aristocracy, and the owner of that honeyed voice on the Met’s audio tours, is irreplaceable.

Now the chairman of the museum’s board, James R. Houghton, has one less big tie to New York, too: He sold his two-bedroom tower apartment in the Majestic on Central Park West last month, city records show, for $4.9 million.

“We had it for over 20 years, we were very happy in the Majestic,” he told this reporter. “They took wonderful care of us.” Still, the family spent only two or maybe three days a week there; their main house is upstate, where his family’s 157-year-old glassmaker Corning is headquartered.

Does selling off the pied-à-terre mean he’s leaving the Met? “I will be staying longer than Mr. de Montebello,” he said, “but I don’t know how much longer.” (Mr. de Montebello, the director for the past 30 years, is due to step down in December.)

Mr. Houghton, also a board member at MetLife and Exxon Mobil—which this month announced the largest annual profit ever by an American company ($40.6 billion)—was not amused by additional questions on the topic. When asked if leaving the Majestic made it emotionally easier to leave the Met, he said, “Why would that make any difference? I mean, really. An apartment is a place to stay.

“There are things called hotels,” he said earlier. “I’ve stayed at the Four Seasons, but I’m also a member of the Harvard Club and the University Club.”

And what did his co-op look like? “We have some glass art. It was a nice, small apartment.” A listing says there was a stately foyer, herringbone floors, a marble mantel fireplace and two large picture windows on the park.

Will he miss it? “No, I don’t think so.”

The buyers are Lucyna and Arminio Fraga, a fund manager for George Soros during the 90’s, then the president of Brazil’s massive central bank. Mr. Fraga is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, where Mr. Houghton was a board member over a decade ago.