Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione temporarily saved his East 67th Street townhouse from the auction block last week by making a last-minute payment to a creditor he owes $16.5 million. The creditor, Kennedy Funding, a real-estate lending company, has foreclosed on Mr. Guccione’s property, and the company was set to auction it off on Feb. 14. But the company agreed to adjourn the proceedings for three weeks after Mr. Guccione made an 11th-hour payment.
“This auction was scheduled because certain arrangements were not adhered to,” said Joseph Wolfer, Kennedy’s chairman. “Then, at the last minute, he made payments, and we called off the auction.”
Through a spokesperson, Mr. Guccione declined to comment. About seven years ago, Mr. Guccione borrowed upwards of $30 million from Kennedy, and Mr. Wolfer said the publisher pledged the townhouse as collateral, as well as several properties he owned in Atlantic City, N.J. When the loan came due, Mr. Guccione liquidated the Atlantic City properties to try to cover the debt.
“It was always contemplated that those properties would be more than enough to satisfy the debt, but they didn’t satisfy it,” said Mr. Wolfer. “And now we’re stuck in this situation that we don’t particularly like.” Mr. Wolfer explained that his company generally avoids using private residences, even in part, as security for loans.
“If you have to foreclose on someone’s warehouse or factory, that’s unfortunate, but it’s not the same thing as foreclosing on someone’s house,” he said.
To try to pay off his debts, Mr. Guccione originally listed his grand double-wide townhouse at 14-16 East 67th Street in October 2002 for $40 million. At the time, it was one of the most expensive properties on the Manhattan market-a market that had recently gone cold. So when it became clear that no buyers were stepping forward to offer Mr. Guccione anywhere near his asking price, Kennedy made Mr. Guccione contract with Keen Consultants, a real-estate auctioning firm that usually specializes in disposing of commercial properties.
“We forced Keen upon him, but he made significant enough payments to eliminate the need for the auction process,” Mr. Wolfer said. So the auction never came off, but Mr. Guccione ended up enacting a repeat performance when he pushed Kennedy to the brink on Feb. 14. Mr. Wolfer suggested that Mr. Guccione is starting to try his patience.
“It would have been more sensible and cheaper if he had made that payment weeks earlier,” Mr. Wolfer said. “We would have saved advertising costs, and I must have gotten a hundred calls from people who were interested in finding out more info on the sale.” Mr. Wolfer does not want another repeat performance. With interest, the amount due now is $16.5 million, and Mr. Wolfer said he hopes Mr. Guccione will use his three-week reprieve to shore up his finances and avoid another threat of auction.
“It’s our hope that he gets to sell it with standard real-estate brokers,” he said. “It seems to me he would have a better chance of getting a higher price, but I don’t know if Mr. Guccione is going to go that route or go for another refinancing to make another payment.”
But auction-goers beware: Kennedy is not the only creditor to whom Mr. Guccione is in debt. He also owes money to First Deutsche Bank, which holds the first mortgage on the property. In fact, even though First Deutsche has yet to foreclose on the property, it is first in line for any proceeds from a sale. At the aborted auction on Feb. 14, a representative of the bank told The Observer that bank officials were unlikely to accept any auction bid on the property that didn’t cover First Deutsche’s investment in Mr. Guccione’s property. The representative declined to name a dollar amount, but whatever it is, the eventual bid must presumably be well in excess of $16.5 million, which is the amount that Mr. Guccione owes to Kennedy alone.
The townhouse that for 40 years was home to the legendary Café Nicholson has hit the market for $10 million. During its heyday in the 1950’s and 60’s, the hideaway restaurant, located on East 58th Street at the base of the Queensboro Bridge, was the preferred haunt of society types like Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Marlene Dietrich. The speakeasy-type eatery, which has gone through several periods of openings and closings in its lifetime, shuttered its doors for good in November of 2001. A group of four real-estate investors owns the building, and one of them currently lives in the building’s upper three floors, but will move out upon the townhouse’s sale.
In the late 1940’s, a window dresser and antiques dealer named Johnny Nicholson opened up the restaurant that bore his name and ran it largely as a one-man show. A few years later, he moved the restaurant down the street to its present location, at 323 East 58th Street. There, Mr. Nicholson decorated the main dining room in a highly idiosyncratic style that he termed “fin-de-siècle Caribbean of Cuba style.” The walls, which are still extant today, are covered in 19th-century hand-painted tiles with a satyr motif. Pastel wall panels depict Cupid scenes, and stenciled lily pads and lizards range across the ceiling’s borders. Mr. Nicholson sold the building to a developer in 1999. By April of 2000, chef Patrick Woodside, who opened the popular Greenwich Village eatery CamaJe Bistro, re-opened the 58th Street restaurant, this time under the name Nicholson. “My girlfriend and I were doing O.K. at CamaJe, just paying our bills, and I wanted to do a rather beautiful place,” Mr. Woodside recalls about his decision to reopen the restaurant. “But I realized if I wanted to attract that kind of clientele, I would have to go to midtown or uptown.” Nicholson, which specialized in contemporary French cuisine, opened to a one-star review in The New York Times , and Mr. Woodside said the restaurant never really recovered from it.
“One star is a kiss of death,” he said, “I tried to be modern, and perhaps realized I picked the wrong spot for that type of food.”
The economic downturn following Sept. 11 sounded the restaurant’s death knell, and by that November, Mr. Woodside pulled the plug. The restaurant has been vacant ever since.
“It’s basically an odd space,” he continued. “It’s probably a great place to do wonderful private parties, or a private club.”
Mr. Woodside also said it would probably be necessary for any future commercial venture to have access to the entire building. When he was running the restaurant, patrons could only dine on the first floor. There are currently three living units on the upper floors, but the real-estate agent marketing the building, Katsuko Suzuki of the Corcoran Group, said the space would be ideal for “foreign missions, corporate headquarters, private theaters” or even a single-family residence.
upper east side
160 East 65th Street
Asking: $265,000. Selling: $302,500.
Maintenance: $615; 48 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: three weeks.
sweet studio An internist and a psychologist from Long Island were looking to set up their daughter in Manhattan when they came upon this 650-square-foot alcove studio.
It’s a corner unit with near-floor-to-ceiling windows, so light floods through from two directions.
“It’s unusual to say that a studio is unique, but this one is,” said the parents’ broker on the deal, Terri Stone of Charles H. Greenthal.
Trouble was, the apartment’s distinctions didn’t escape three other potential buyers, and the apartment’s owners-an older couple moving out of the city-had to solicit sealed bids. Ms. Stone had taken the parents and their daughter-who works in TV production-to plenty of inferior studios that were asking well over $300,000, so they knew a bargain when they saw one.
“It shows once again that properties priced properly are going to sell very strongly in this market,” said Ms. Stone.
611 West 111th Street
One-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op.
Asking: $390,000. Selling: $382,000.
Maintenance: $600; 38 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: three weeks.
dog lovers unite For almost the last two decades, the previous owner of this apartment has played trumpet for the jazz-rock band Blood, Sweat and Tears. His name is John Owens, and he and his wife, Jill, decided to move out of this one-bedroom apartment to start a family. Their broker, Ann Guttman of Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy, brought around a single Japanese woman in her early 30’s who works for a Japanese bank. She was looking this far uptown because she’s not an American citizen-a no-no for many co-op boards in the tonier parts of Manhattan.
“Co-op boards up here are a little less picky,” said Ms. Guttman, who partnered on this deal with Coldwell broker Lynn Sullivan.
One thing the board was going to be picky about, however, was its pets policy. The buyer was coming with two dogs, and the board requested an audience with all three of them. The Japanese banker didn’t have high hopes.
Her Jack Russell terrier tends to get hyper in a crowd, and her boxer is suspicious of strangers.
“The boxer is sweet,” said Ms. Guttman, “but it takes a half an hour before you can look him in the eye.”
The buyer refused to give her pets sedatives, so Ms. Guttman did what she could, scrounging up a letter of reference from the dog-walker and arriving early at the closing to settle down the pets. She also suggested obedience classes, but it turned out both pets already have their degrees.
“I really did pray to the dog gods,” said Ms. Guttman.
Luckily, some of the board members were dog lovers themselves. Their main concern was barking-and as luck would have it, the buyer’s pets stayed mum throughout the interview. All three of them sailed through the process without any blood, sweat or tears.
upper west side
299 Riverside Drive
Two-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op.
Asking: $830,000. Selling: $820,000.
Maintenance: $1,032; 27 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: 16 days.
inspiring views Late last year, a single woman in her late 30’s grew tired of her job as an analyst at a big Wall Street firm. Every morning and night in her apartment, she’d gaze out the windows at her jaw-dropping Hudson River views and wonder about the promise of a world unbounded by steel and concrete. So instead of just pining away, she left her job, sold her apartment and embarked on an African safari, where she remains today.
“She wants to go in another direction, so she’s taking a break to enjoy herself,” said her broker on the deal, Greg Kammerer of the Corcoran Group, who partnered with Corcoran agent Amy Arpadi.
The new owner, another single woman, also drew inspiration from the oversized windows. She’s a painter, and the apartment’s north light apparently picks up canvas colors like no other.
When she first saw the place, she pulled a move that’s every broker’s dream.
“She walked in, flipped over the place and made an offer within five minutes,” said Ms. Arpadi.
Her new art den has high ceilings, dental moldings and Herringbone wood floors.
150 West 56th Street
Two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo.
Asking: $1.85 million. Selling: $1.51 million.
Charges: $1,151; taxes: $1,176.
Time on the market: 18 months.
swinger’s suite If Larry Flynt got his decorating tips from Miami Vice , he might have produced an apartment like this seedy midtown marvel. In reality, it used to belong to the publisher of several pornographic magazines-titles you’d know only if you were a devotee of the form. Styling himself a regular Don Johnson, the publisher had covered his living-room walls in black Pirelli rubber, installed a drop ceiling with recessed lighting, laid down a marble floor and hooked up automatic shade-closers on his floor-to-ceiling windows-offering a complete blackout effect. “You felt like you were in a swinging bachelor’s pad from the 80’s,” said the listing broker on the deal, Heidi Berger of Insignia Douglas Elliman. “Everybody was scared by the amount of work it needed, but everybody loved the views.”
The panoramic windows looked directly over Central Park, which had the pleasant effect of distracting potential buyers from those rubber walls. The new buyer already lived in the building-a high-rise called the Cityspire-and had been waiting patiently for the price to drop. As soon as it did, he pounced, and his decorator already has vowed to rip out the drop ceiling and rubber façades.
Ms. Berger partnered on the deal with Bill Postrion, also of Insignia Douglas Elliman.