In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the Gobelins manufactory wove tapestries for Louis XIV, the absolutist French ruler, who espoused the theory of the divine right of kings. According to that theory, dauphins were not merely born lucky onto plush velvet thrones of ungodly wealth and power. No, they actually carried the mark, indeed the ordination, of the divine.
In the 21st century, you can walk up Madison Avenue, turn right onto 61st Street and enter a recessed cove well removed from the commoners’ foot traffic. Pass through the doors and into the 40-foot-tall limestone lobby of 667 Madison Avenue, arguably the most exclusive office building in New York City, and you will find, on the wall behind the bow-tied concierge, one of those Gobelins tapestries.
The message could not be clearer: Here live the Sun Kings.
That image of ordained exclusivity is the principal reason why 667 Madison, a fairly unexceptional-looking building at the northernmost tip of Manhattan’s central business district, can charge rents in excess of $100 a square foot, even as the commercial real state market finds itself buffeted by worldly economic concerns that have caused less divine landlords to chop away at rents like so many necks on a guillotine.
That image is what enables Ron Simoncini, a spokesman for landlord Leonard Stern, who made his billions largely in pet supplies and Jersey real estate, to email the following claim: “We have not done a deal at 667 Madison Avenue for less than $100 psf in 7 years.” Indeed, in the past 90 days, Mr. Stern has signed deals with three tenants at three-digit numbers. One of those deals brings into the heavenly fold Talos Partners, a private investment firm chaired by Robert Brazell, the founder of Overstock.com. Also on the board: onetime Wisconsin Senator Robert Kasten.
‘We have not done a deal at 667 Madison Avenue for less than $100 psf in 7 years.’ —Spokesman for landlord Leonard Stern
Bill Rapavy, the firm’s COO, did not respond to requests for comment. But Mr. Rapavy, who was formerly the COO and CFO of ElitePerformance, a group of hedge funds, will have plenty of distinguished company in his office building (and plenty of potential investors and clients).
There’s Berenson & Company, headed by one Jeffrey L. Berenson, who led Merrill Lynch’s junk bond and merchant banking department until 1990—when the junk bond market went to seed.
There’s the Loews Corporation’s Jonathan Tisch, who, given where he spends both his days and nights, must have quite a hard time understanding how the merely rich live. Should he desire to put in a few hours of work, Mr. Tisch can leave his $48 million, 14-room co-op at 2 East 67th Street and stroll a mere six blocks down Madison Avenue past pricey boutiques to his offices at 667 Madison.