The beginning of 2012 started with a closing, the most spectacular closing this city had ever seen: Russian fertilizer king Dmitry Rybolovlev spent $88 million on Sandy Weill’s 15 Central Park West penthouse. Of course, the question on the real estate community’s lips back then was what Mr. Rybolovlev’s buy could mean. Was it just a weird one-off—a tycoon trying to hide funds in the midst of a divorce—or something more? Did we dare to dream that it might be the opening salvo in a trophy hunt?
Indeed, it was. In the months that followed, some of the world’s wealthiest individuals made it clear that they had money to burn and wanted to spend it on New York real estate. Super sales bloomed with the spring flowers. Steve Wynn spent $70 million for a 10,882-square-foot penthouse at the Ritz Carlton. Gary Barnett announced that not one, but two penthouses were in contract for more than $90 million at One57. The penthouse of 18 Gramercy, the Zeckendorfs’ new collaboration with Robert A.M. Stern, in contract for $42 million, is poised to set a new downtown record when it closes.
Co-ops also had a stunning year, setting record highs not once, but twice (for $52.5 million, then six months later for $54 million), proving that the trophy phenomenon wasn’t just running on foreign fuel. Even if co-op prices do continue to lag behind their park-side, board-less brethren. As one broker said of the 730 Park penthouse, which sold for $39 million: “If Russians could have bought the apartment, it would have sold for much, much more.”
And there were more than a few ridiculous overreaches—like the $100 million CitySpire penthouse, which induced more eye-rolling than desire and was promptly followed by three still-on-the-market $95 million listings.
Will the gold rush continue in 2013? Will grotesquely wealthy individuals continue to flood the city, tallying wraparound terraces and wood-burning fireplaces, touting double-height living rooms and converted ballrooms, debating the merits of tony duplexes versus sprawling floor-throughs? No one knows for sure, but Extell, Macklowe and the Zeckendorfs are certainly counting on the dream that if you continue to build ultra-luxurious condos, the billionaires will continue to come.
But for now, how about a look back at the 20 biggest deals of the year? (As compiled by Miller Samuel.)