Israelis Eye and Buy Top-Notch Manhattan Icons

About a month ago, Rotem Rosen, the C.E.O. of Africa Israel U.S.A., the real-estate venture led by billionaire Lev Leviev, met with executives from Tishman Speyer. At the meeting, their first, they discussed the ramshackle ex-home of The New York Times at 229 West 43rd Street that Tishman Speyer had just put on the market.

By the time their meeting ended, it was agreed that Mr. Leviev would pay $525 million for the building, three times what Tishman Speyer had paid for it in 2004. The auction for the building should have lasted months; this meeting ended the process in under a week.

In a similar, furiously quick fashion, Mr. Leviev bought the iconic 41-story Clock Tower on Madison Avenue for $200 million one month ago. The pre-emptive buy was also the way Haim Revah purchased the Lipstick Building in April and investor Uzi Ben-Abraham went to contract at 530-4 and 536-8 Broadway for over $1,100 per square foot last month.

The sales have a lot in common: They were purchased lightning fast; they were headline-grabbing deals; they were all purchased by Israelis

Manhattan is flush in foreign money, and brokers like to point to the Middle East—by way of Dubai—as the recent leader. But if there’s a dominating foreign investor in a year that is paced to become the most lucrative in the city’s commercial history, it is distinctly Israeli.

“I can tell you that this is only the beginning,” said Mr. Rosen. “This is one of the best places to invest. We believe this is the right time and the right place.”

In the last four months, Israelis have outpaced all foreign investors, with buys totaling more than $2 billion.

“They have the capital to spend and Manhattan is their playground,” said Dan Fasulo, a director at Real Capital Analytics, a market-research group. “They’ve been able to generate tremendous returns over the last few years.”

Israelis Eye and Buy Top-Notch Manhattan Icons