Could William Lie Zeckendorf be the shrewdest man in New York City real estate?
The only thing more surprising than the news just over a month ago that Mr. Zeckendorf was selling the top half of the late Bruce Wasserstein’s old duplex at 927 Fifth Avenue—which he fought off a number of other buyers for in a madcap one-day auction—is that he found a buyer less than a week after putting it on the market. Not only that, but according to a number of sources, the five-bedroom spread went for “well over” its $31.5 million asking price after some zealous bidding. One broker said the price could even be in excess of $34 million.
This could help explain Mr. Zeckendorf’s unexpected decision to sell.
As The Times noted 32 days ago, “brokers said the reasons for his selling again were unknown at this point.” Well, now we may know, as Mr. Zeckendorf could be turning a $5 million profit on the five-bedroom home overlooking Central Park, which he closed on in December for $29.1 million. He never moved in.
That may not be nearly profitable as one of his other jaw-dropping deals, the record-breaking sale of the penthouse atop 15 Central Park West, which went for $40 million, or nearly $10,000 a square foot, or four times what Mr. Zeckendorf originally paid to crown the building he and his brother built with Robert A.M. Stern. Then again, he turned around 927 Fifth in all of six months, instead of two years. Never mind that Mr. Zecekendorf does not need the money, 15 Central Park West having been a success in and of itself after it grossed a staggering $2 billion, an amount matched only in magnitude by the outsized resales in the building.
If the sale is true, and the contract goes through, it belies the fact that, like Bid ‘Em Up Bruce, as Wasserstein was known, Mr. Zeckendorf is simply a consummate dealmaker who cannot say no to a good offer. “Will clearly knows what he’s doing,” one broker said. “He’s going to be a lucky son of a bitch, whatever he does.”
The identity of the buyer remains unknown, and there is still the possibility the co-op board might not approve. For the kind of money on offer, it might be hard to say no, though. A rising tide and all that. Plus, this is one of the more lenient boards in a stringent city. “Financially, it is tight, but socially, it’s easy,” one broker said.
John Burger, Mr. Zeckendorf’s broker, as well as his firm Brown Harris Stevens, which manages the building, declined to comment. Mr. Zeckendorf did not immediately return requests for comment.
If such numbers seem staggering—Wasserstein paid $15 million for both floors only a decade ago—brokers said it is an especially nice apartment in nearly perfect condition with not only views of the Park but also lots of light from the 74th Street side.
Completed in 1917 by Grand Central Terminal architects Warren & Whetmore, it is not the most distinguished of the Upper East Side co-ops. Nonetheless, it has attracted its fair share of notable owners, among them Mary Tyler Moore, Kenneth Cole, Richard Cohen and Paula Zahn and, perhaps most famously, the hawk Pale Male, whose perch was dislodged to widespread protest in 2004, until it was replaced three weeks later.
So quick turnarounds are nothing new in this building.