Curtains on Eloise! Vavilov Exits Long, Strange Plaza Penthouse Trip

andrey vavilov toned Curtains on Eloise! Vavilov Exits Long, Strange Plaza Penthouse TripOne of the genuinely great fracases in Manhattan real estate history has finally ended, but with a whimper. Andrei Vavilov, the Russian oligarch who sued the Plaza last year over a duplex penthouse and triplex penthouse he was supposed to buy there for $53.5 million, has finally left the building.

In January, he ended up buying the duplex as a compromise, then put it on the market immediately. According to a deed filed in city records, he just sold it for only $8.4 million, a suitably morose ending to a feud that’s defined this post-bubble era. The buyer is a limited liability corporation that seems to be controlled by Maribel Unanue McVicar, whose grandfather founded Goya, one of the largest private companies in the world.

In 2007, back when life was innocent and splendid, Mr. Vavilov agreed to spend $14 million on the 2,906-square-foot duplex—and then another $39.5 million on the neighboring triplex, which would have made for one of the most expensive sprawls ever in New York. That hugeness was appropriate for Mr. Vavilov, who became a deputy finance minister under Yeltsin; survived an assassination attempt in a Kremlin parking lot in 1996; made his fortune in oil; and was described in The Times the year of that would-be purchase as a 46-year-old “architect of Russia’s fledgling market economy.”

When he sued the Plaza over the deal last year, it was an early sign that the world was basically crumbling. His suit said he had bought the penthouses sight unseen, but that (and here he invoked the name of “the classic Eloise series of children’s books set in the Plaza”) the developers had secretly changed square footage, windows and ceilings, and then threatened to keep his $10.7 million deposit if he didn’t close.

Two weeks later, the Plaza’s developer, El-Ad, sued for defamation. They said Mr. Vavilov had been satisfied when he saw the apartments alone, but that his actress wife, who had been running late for their appointment, was unhappy when finally shown the space. The suit alleges that she had wanted the biggest apartment in the building, and that the trouble only arose when the couple wasn’t allowed to buy up a third penthouse unit.

Then the compromise came. In January, Mr. Vavilov bought the smaller penthouse at a discount, for just over $11 million, essentially swapping his huge deposit for the duplex. (El-Ad kept the triplex, which has not yet been re-listed.)

Mr. Vavilov put the duplex back on the market a month later for $12.5 million, which fell to $9.95 million in March. His agents were Brown Harris StevensBrenda Powers and Elizabeth Lee Sample, powerful brokers who have worked with a psychic hotline king and Tyco’s chief financial officer. “Everything is questionable when you deal with that much money,” Ms. Powers said last year.

The apartment was reportedly in contract by June, but it wasn’t clear then if Mr. Vavilov would get anything close to his tag. He didn’t. Not only is the sale $1.55 million less than Mr. Vavilov’s final asking price, it’s more than $2.6 million less than he had paid.

But it’s still a wondrous thing to get $8.4 million for an apartment that you’ve publicly called inferior. The windows, air-conditioning units, lighting and bathroom tiles were all subpar, Mr. Vavilov’s court papers said. The ceilings were too low, the drainage grates ugly, the setback wrong, the changes hidden.

In its first two sentences, Mr. Vavilov’s Brown Harris listing used the words and phrases “spectacular,” “legendary,” “one of a kind,” “grand,” “large,” and “great.”

mabelson@observer.com