With James Murdoch Indisposed, What Now for the Muppet Mansion?

muppets house1 With James Murdoch Indisposed, What Now for the Muppet Mansion?

Can James Murdoch hack it here? The townhouse in question.

This past spring, our Matt Chaban cracked the sale of the 40-foot-wide townhouse at 117-119 East 69th Street that the late Jim Henson used as a studio to craft his Muppets. (We’re quickly reminded of News Corp. employee Homer Simpson’s description of what a Muppet is for son Bart: “Well, it’s not quite a mop, it’s not quite a puppet, but man… [brief laughter] … So to answer your question, I don’t know.”)

And we don’t quite know what might become of the Muppet Mansion now that its purported owner, James Murdoch, confronts a full schedule in London. Here’s the thing:

- Edgar Bronfman Jr. bought the townhouse in the fall of 2008 for $28.5 million (Henson had bought it in 1977 for $600,000).

- He sold it for $23 million this past March, apparently taking a 20 percent loss.

- The buyer hid behind an LLC named Statler. Clever, but not clever enough. Per Mr. Chaban:

That happens to be the name of the tall, skinny muppet who heckles the stars from a theater box along with his pal Waldorf on the old Muppet Show. And yet the joke is on the buyer, as the deed lists an address for the LLC at 1211 Avenue of the Americas, headquarters of News Corp., and the deed has been signed by one of the building’s denizens, Jesse Angelo, editor of The Daily.

- Statler was not, in fact, Mr. Angelo.

- Statler may be James Murdoch, Mr. Angelo’s close friend since their days at Harvard. It certainly makes sense, given the details on the deed and that the younger Mr. Murdoch was planning to move to New York to become the No. 3 at News Corp.

Such a move now seems unlikely (or unwise), given the litany of allegations and possibly interminable depositions confronting Mr. Murdoch; his future within News Corp. seems uncertain now, too.

We have an email out to a News Corp. rep.

Update: The email came back: “No comment.”

tacitelli@observer.com  ::  Follow on Twitter: tacitelli