The 89-year-old, New York-based George Comfort & Sons is close to buying the two remaining cloudbusters that Deutsche Bank reclaimed from distressed borrower Harry Macklowe earlier this year and then put on the block, according to sources familiar with negotiations.
Word has it that the price tag for the 44-story Times Square behemoth at 1540 Broadway and the 47-story, copper-topped, granite-clad Worldwide Plaza, at 825 Eighth Avenue, is hovering near $2 billion, but that the deal relies, at least in part, on NBC Universal leasing space in Worldwide Plaza for its new business operations center. NBC Universal’s rather public search for more than 600,000 square feet in which to consolidate employees scattered throughout the borough, one of the few potential bright spots in an otherwise moribund market, has caused considerable jaw-flapping among brokers and landlords. A locked-in lease would make the tower a much more secure investment.
Neither Deutsche Bank’s real estate advisers at Eastdil Secured nor a representative from George Comfort & Sons would comment. But for those who have never heard of the Comforts, they appear to be one of those powerful New York real estate dynasties that, against all odds, manages to stay well below the media radar. The firm owns 200 Madison Avenue and 498 Seventh Avenue, among other properties. On its Web site, George Comfort says it manages 9 million square feet of commercial property, half of which it also owns.
If completed, the deal would nearly close the book on Macklowe Properties’ tumultuous dealings with the so-called Equity Office Portfolio, the seven-tower midtown portfolio that Mr. Macklowe bought in 2007 for $7 billion, putting down just $50 million and using his beloved GM Building as collateral (we all know what happened there).
On Sept. 3, The Observer broke the news that a Japanese firm called Mitsui Fudosan is buying the 26-story 527 Madison for $225 million and that the Chicago-based TransWestern is under contract to take Tower 56 at 126 East 56th Street for $160 million. Both were part of the Equity portfolio.
The other three trophy towers have already been claimed, by Shorenstein Properties (Park Avenue Tower and 850 Third Avenue), and the Paramount Group (1301 Avenue of the Americas).