Heiress Libbet Johnson Creates Triplex Condo Priced at $62 Million

A TRUMP TRICK? HEIRESS ASKS HIGHEST PRICE EVER FOR SPRAWL Last year, while renovating her co-op apartment at the River House, 435 East 52nd Street, Libbet Johnson, an heir of the Johnson & Johnson family, rented a condominium in Donald Trump’s Trump International Hotel and Tower at 1 Central Park West. She liked the hotel services (delivery from Jean Georges) and location so much that, over the past year, she has plunked down more than $50 million for a total of six apartments in the building and sold her legendary co-op for $12 million.

Now, she’s putting all but one of those Trump International apartments back on the market for $62 million, the highest anyone has ever asked for an apartment in Manhattan–and much more than she will ever get, brokers said.

Ms. Johnson was in the middle of combining the apartments, more than 20,000 square feet spread over the 49th, 50th and 51st floors, when she fell in love with celebrity hairdresser Frédéric Fekkai. A source said that Mr. Fekkai likes more modest–or cozy–living and persuaded Ms. Johnson to keep only one apartment, which they now share, and sell off the other five. (Or maybe he’d just rather live somewhere else altogether?)Brokers said she’ll put the property on the market in mid-November through Mr. Trump’s sales office.

Ms. Johnson bought one of the apartments, 51B, from movie producer Keith Barish last April. A source said that Mr. Barish agreed to sell his apartment because the construction Ms. Johnson was planning would annoy him and he wanted to move to Tribeca, anyway. Two and a half years ago, Mr. Barish had bought the pad for about $6 million; he made about $14 million in the deal. Now it’s Ms. Johnson’s turn.

The Slowest Co-op Board in Manhattan

New Yorkers are a busy bunch, but it was no scheduling mishap or faulty Palm Pilot that prevented the co-op board of 998 Fifth Avenue from meeting the couple that signed a $16 million contract for the 16-room apartment of Archibald Cox Jr., son of the Watergate prosecutor, and his wife Jean in May.

Brokers said that in mid-October, the board canceled a meeting with Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani, 48, chairman of Mondoil Corporation, a New Mexico-basedoil company, and his wife Sharmin, a managing director at Goldman, Sachs & Company. It was the second appointment that the board had canceled without any explanation, and the delays led the couple to walk away from the deal.

Luckily for Mr. Cox, another buyer was waiting in the wings and signed a contract several weeks ago. The lingering question is whether they will be treated any differently by the board who last time around postponed until the contract on the apartment had expired.

When asked for a comment about the deal, Ms. Mossavar-Rahmani referred calls to Stephen Mann, a lawyer, real estate investor and the vice president and treasurer of 998 Fifth’s board.

“We have a very peculiar voting system in the building which virtually requires almost every tenant to be present at a meeting. We never got through the process with them,” said Mr. Mann, who confirmed the canceled meetings.

Board members include Morton Hyman, the board president, who runs a company called Overseas Shipholding Group and who is also chairman of the board of trustees of Beth Israel Medical Center; socialite Ann Slater; Peter Kimmelman, a private investor; and Linda Lindenbaum, wife of Samuel Lindenbaum, a zoning attorney.

“The [Mossavar-Rahmanis] got tired; it ended somehow, a month ago,” said Mr. Mann. “Eventually they withdrew or [their contract] expired and a new buyer appeared.”

The apartment never officially went back on the market after the deal fell through, but a backup buyer recently signed a contract for the 5,000-square-foot place with four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a huge gallery, a corner master bedroom and a library facing Central Park. (Maintenance is $6,600.)

Mr. Cox, president and chief executive of an Indiana-based company, Magnequench, a high-performance magnet maker, has lived in Indiana for five years and put his apartment on the market in early May, just one week before the Mossavar-Rahmanis signed a contract for it. He confirmed that the apartment now has another buyer.

Said Elizabeth Stribling of Stribling & Associates, the firm representing Mr. Cox: “There were always a couple of backup people for that apartment.”

Mr. Mann said the new buyer has not yet met the board and wouldn’t say whether such a meeting was on the agenda of the building’s annual meeting on Nov. 7.

“They happen to be wonderful people,” said Mr. Mann, who liked the Mossavar-Rahmanis so much he had his daughter confer with them about her graduate-school plans. “I’m sorry they’re not going to be my neighbors.” Mr. Mann said the most recent board approval was two years ago, when art dealer Nathan Bernstein and his wife Katarina Otto, a documentary film maker, bought the third and fourth floors.

For now, the Mossavar-Rahmanis seem to be bored of the real estate game–they have never put their apartment at 953 Fifth Avenue on the market.


BUYERS OF RITZ APARTMENTS, ATOP CENTRAL PARK SOUTH, ASKED TO MAKE IT OFFICIAL When Ian Schrager sold the former St. Moritz hotel to Millennium Partners back in November 1999, the contract included a stipulation: The top 12 floors of the new 300-room, 35-story hotel (to be managed by Ritz-Carlton) would become condominiums to be developed as a joint project by Ian Schrager Hotels and Millennium Partners.

Although the original plan called for 14 condominium units, the number eventually shrank to 11 giant units that range in size from 5,000 square feet to just under 10,000 square feet. Finishes would be top-of-the-line, including Sub-Zero refrigerators, herringbone floors, Viking stoves and tumbled marble baths–and, most importantly, each unit would have over 100 square feet of Central Park views. They would also be some of the most expensive apartments in town, starting at $17 million for a low-floor apartment and reaching $39.5millionforthe largest, which includes a double-height ballroom. The developers have also promised beamed ceilings and outdoor space for half of the apartments.

“They are the sexiest thing to hit Manhattan in forever,” said one broker of the unfinished apartments.

While some prospective buyers couldn’t get past low ceilings and the traffic of the neighborhood, according to sources, seven of the 11 apartments had been spoken for by early fall.

Among the would-be buyers, brokers said, are Larry Ellison, the chief executive of Oracle Corporation, the world’s second-largest software company, and Mitchell Rales of the manufacturing conglomerate Danaher Corporation They were not bothered by the hard-hat tour through the construction site, or the fact that the units would not be finished until December 2001. Then the offering plan for the apartments was not approved by the Attorney General’s office and had to be returned for revisions (a minor complication involving how the lowest floor would be used.)

“I was ready to jump out of a window,” said one broker, who had clients who’d reserved in the building but had to wait impatiently until the building’s offering plan was approved on Oct. 31. “I have people who are frantic: Do they have homes, don’t they have homes? I kept being told ‘This week … next week.’ I was told that for three months.”

The first apartment to be reserved, back in May of this year, was the three-bedroom, four-and-a-half bath, 5,909-square-foot penthouse unit with a 689-square-foot roof terrace. The asking price was only $19 million, making the comparatively small penthouse one of the cheaper units. Other units that have been reserved include a 9,906-square-foot duplex (asking price: a reported $39.5 million), a 5,937 square-foot unit on the 29th floor (asking price: $21 million) and an 8,274-square-foot unit (asking price: $26 million).

Contracts have been sent out for the supposed buyers to make it official. According to one broker who had received a copy of the offering plan, that would require the intended buyers to sign on the dotted line and submit a 20 percent down payment. If they don’t, brokers say, the developers will jack up the prices and move on to the next billionaire.

315 East 68th Street

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,550-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $699,000. Selling: $699,000.

Charges: $1,419; 50 percent tax deductible.

Time on the market: four weeks.

REALITY BITES Like everyone else, the sellers of this two-bedroom apartment (a combination of two one-bedroom apartments) “priced it aggressively,” said their broker, Marie Schmon of the Corcoran Group. That meant asking $775,000. “When we lowered the price to $699,000, we got a contract almost immediately,” she said. Although the apartment has two fireplaces, a dining room and an eat-in kitchen, it is on a low floor. The two apartments were combined by the sellers, who had been using the place as a pied-à-terre. Post-combination, it has a large master bedroom with a fireplace but, said the broker, it also had “poor flow.” The buyers, a couple in their 50’s who had already been living on the Upper East Side, will do some work to try to make the apartment more light and less awkward. The building, located on the corner of 68th Street and Second Avenue, is 16 stories and has 286 units.

200 East 65th Street (the Bristol Plaza)

Two-bed, two-bath, 1,340-square-foot condo.

Asking: $1.995 million. Selling: $1.850 million.

Charges: $1,493. Taxes: $522.

Time on the market: three months.

A PLACE TO ESCAPE TO ON THE WEEKDAYS The Bristol Plaza is made up of two buildings–one at 210 East 65th Street that features short-term furnished rental units and 25 condominium units, and an adjacent 50-story building which is made up entirely of condos. This two-bedroom, 1,340-square-foot apartment is in the large tower building–”the beautiful one,” according to the listing broker, Daniela Kunen of Douglas Elliman. Ms. Kunen said that the tower building is actually overstaffed; both buildings offer a concierge and a doorman. “Many of the people in the building combined apartments, but the staff was hired with the idea that there would be one family per apartment,” she said. The sellers of this apartment had kept the place as a pied-à-terre for the past five years, but decided to sell when they realized they would not be in New York very frequently. The couple who bought the place also have homes elsewhere, but expect to be in Manhattan on weekdays. At the top of the residential building is a 20-by-50-foot swimming pool with a removable roof and expansive views. The building also has a rooftop terrace and a residents-only health club.


285 Riverside Drive

Three-bed, three-bath, 2,000-square-foot co-op.

Asking: $1.395 million. Selling: $1.45 million.

Charges: $1,484; 30 percent tax deductible.

Time on the market: two days.

A HARD SEVEN Jim Perez of the Halstead Property Company was trying to help a family of four upgrade from six to seven rooms, almost to no avail. Admittedly, the people were not very flexible; a separate dining room, maid’s room and Upper West Side location were a must. After looking for six months and watching more than one apartment slip through their fingers, the family was about ready to give up. Then Mr. Perez saw that this apartment, a seven-room co-op at the corner of 101st Street and Riverside Drive, was about to become available. The sellers would be having two open houses, one Sunday and one Monday. He took the family to the Sunday open house and they made a pre-emptive offer the next day. The sellers wanted to make a quick deal, and the buyers were happy not to have to fight for the place. After a quick paint job (all the place needed), the family of four moved in just before Halloween.


An item in the Oct. 23 Manhattan Transfers incorrectly described the circumstances surrounding the nomination of Federal Judge Kimba Wood for the position of Attorney General of the United States in February 1993. Ms. Woods withdrew her name from consideration after her employment of an undocumented immigrant as a nanny was called into question, but was not accused of anything illegal. The Observer regrets the error. Heiress Libbet Johnson Creates Triplex Condo Priced at $62 Million