An $88 Million Key: The Biggest Real Estate Deals of 2011

  • It’s been a crazy year for New York’s residential real estate market.

    Defying all expectations, nay, reality, the market is back, at least at the tippy top, where records were repeatedly toppled. It was the year of the foreigner, particularly the Russian oligarch. But when you look past all the headlines, the Upper East Side and its tony co-ops townhouses still reign supreme—834 Fifth posted three top deals alone—even if they no longer can claim the crown. That belongs, now and probably forever, to 15 Central Park West. At least until they finish the next Tower of Babillionaires across the park.

    eknutsen@observer.com

  • Try as we might to reveal every last buyer in Manhattan, some remain a mystery. In the age of LLCs, anonymity is expected, particularly at tony new condos like 15 CPW. Such is the case with unit 27A. Purchased by an LLC in 2008 for $11.5 million, the 3,100-square-foot property was re-sold early last Summer and purchased for $24.5 million by two separate LLCs. Sounds like a cabal of investors to us

  • Although Broadway producer Hal Prince originally listed his 834 Fifth duplex in 2009,it only sold this past spring. And while Mr. Prince initially wanted $33 million on the place, two years of price chops ensued. The three-bedroom, 4.5 bath spread ultimately went for just $24.9 million when Blackstone president Hamilton (call me Tony) James sealed the deal last May.

  • Ah, the fabled Prince Street penthouse. Once owned by Rupert Murdoch and Wendy Deng, the place was bequeathed to Elie and Rory Tahari for $24.68 back in 2005. When the Taharis separated in 2010, Ted Waitt, the founder of Gateway computers, bought the 9,309-square-foot pad, one of the most expensive deals of last year. After an ill-fated romance of his own, Mr. Waitt sold the triplex to an anonymous buyer for $25 million last Spring. Oh, love's lost labors.

  • With billionaire residents like Ace Greenberg and Sid Bass, it came as little surprise when another member of the ten figure club snatched up the penthouse earlier this Fall. The buyer, however, already owns a full floor in the building (not to mention that 414-foot-long yacht). Microsoft's own Paul Allen doubled his holdings in the building after he purchased the penthouse for $25 million. He has owned the neighboring 11th floor since 1996, and we're sure the co-op board was thrilled to have a familiar face (read: billionaire with a good Anglo surname) buy the property.

  • Buyout king David Matlin and his wife, Lisa, listed their full floor apartment at 625 Park Avenue for $29.7 million last spring. The humble home, however, was a fixer upper. The 7,500-square-foot apartment space was divided into two discrete half-renovated spaces. The daunting renovation didn't deter mall magnate David Simon and his wife, Jackie, from investing in the place, however. That said, the Indiana-based couple knocked a solid $4 million and change off the initial ask for their troubles, ultimately paying $25 million.

  • It's a story that would have any real estate aficionado squealing with delight: a Jazz Age apartment with marble details from Michelangelo’s preferred quarry sells, ballroom and all, for $26.75 million. The 6,500-square-foot apartment at 1020 Fifth had been owned by the same family since the building was erected in 1925. It went on the market a day before Lehman collapsed in 2008 and, in a perfect twist of irony, sold for $20 million under the initial asking price to one Stephen Cyrus Freidheim, a financier whose brother was in fact the global head of strategy at Lehman. Strategy indeed.

  • Recently dubbed the world's richest apartment building, some say 740 Park has gone by the wayside in the new age of glossy developments. The towering Park Avenue giant, whose halls are haunted by the ghosts of John D. Rockefeller Jr. and Jackie Kennedy Onassis, proved it's still got that aristocrat swagger with a hefty sale this fall. Greg Fischbach, who has a fortune on video games and media consulting, and his wife Linda sold their unit to William Zeckendorf (who else) for $27 million. Those particularly attune to New York's high end real estate frequency should not be surprised: Mr. Zeckendorf's developer grandfather once owned 740 Park. It's all in the family!

  • Serial apartment flippers Scott and Donya Bommer put their full floor condo at the Ritz on the market in 2008, just four months after they purchased it for $28.5 million. While it was off the market for a number of years, the place finally sold this summer (right around the time the Bommers were closing in on their new apartment at 927 Fifth Avenue) for $30 million to an anonymous buyer. That lucky someone has a full 5,954-square-feet of space, complete with park views, three terraces and amenities that would make even Eloise and her pals at the Plaza green with envy.

  • Among the residences at the Mandarin Oriental, the Time Warner Center's Siamese twin, one luxurious spread stands out: penthouse 76B. Once rented by Jay-Z, the 4,822-square-foot condo was most recently owned by Mark Cuban's business partner Todd Wagner who purchased it for $27 million in 2007. Initially priced at $38 million, Mr. Wagner sold the place this summer for $30 million to an anonymous Asian financier.

  • Although he owned the apartment but a brief moment, William Zeckendorf certainly left his mark on 927 Fifth. Just six months after Mr. Zeckendorf paid $29 million for Bruce Wasserstein's old place, he decided to sell. Ambitiously listing the five-bedroom, five-bath spread for $31.5 million, Mr. Zeckendorf ended up getting a full $34 million for the full-floor apartment, fully earning himself the reputation of a luxury real estate God (or devil, we know not which). The buyers, Scott and Donya Bommer, had just sold their apartment at the Ritz for $30 million.

  • The deal has not yet closed, but we would be remiss in ignoring the sale of 12B at the most godly building in New York. Damon Mezzacapa quietly sold his home for $34 million, and the buyer is just the billionaire type you would expect, Texas oil man Robert Bass.

  • Although Leslie and Abagail Wexner initially priced their apartment at $60 million, the duplex ultimately fetched far less. Counting Victoria's Secret among the many brands under his Limited Brands empire, it seems Mr. Wexner fancied he had a (scantily clad) angel on his shoulder when he priced the place. To think he could best Murdoch's triplex—the gall! The apartment was quietly on the market for over a year before it sold to Lazarus "Larry" Heyman, who paid a mere $36 million for the place.

  • Art world impresario Larry Gagosian purchased this storied neo-Renaissance pad for $36.5 million this past August,. which topped this list in 2006. The widest mansion in Manhattan, Mr. Gagosian will have more than enough room for his robust art collection and riotous parties. The previous owner, Christopher Flowers, paid $53.6 million for it, which at the time was the largest residential real estate transaction in Manhattan's history.

  • Way back before anyone in New York had heard of Dmitry Rybolovlev, it was another Russian's name on real estate brokers' lips: Igor Krutoy. Mr. Krutoy paid $48 million for his condo unit at the Plaza last March, at the time the highest price paid for a single condo unit. The 6,000-square-foot property comes with the Plaza's renowned amenities, including an optional turn-down service. (With chocolates on the pillows, we trust.)

  • When Johnson and Johnson heiress Libet Johnson bought this place for $48 million last May, New York luxury brokers breathed a collective sigh of relief. It was the most anyone had paid for a townhouse since 2008. The 12,111-square-foot mansion was gut renovated by the previous owners, Roger Barnett and his heiress wife Sloan Lindemann Barnett who hired leather-loving Warhol-approved designer Peter Marino for the job. That's a lot of glitz.

  • Dmitry Rybovolev. $88 million. What more do we need to say? Almost twice the next highest deal on the list, it will be interesting to see when this deal might be beat, but it certainly sets the bar plenty high for 2012.