‘Nothing Scandalous,’ but $50 M. Kress Penthouse at 1020 Fifth Yanked Off the Market

After two decades of juicy memos, years of quiet broker talk and a recent New York Times article with a parenthetical phone number for “interested buyers,” the palatial $50 million Kress Family penthouse duplex at 1020 Fifth Avenue is off the market.

Back in the Coolidge administration, Samuel H. Kress, founder of the eponymous dime-store chain, helped design the place: There was a ballroom ceiling brought over from a 17th-century Venetian palace; a marble staircase carved from Michelangelo’s quarry; and an 18th-century master bedroom and library shipped from Europe.

But he died in 1955, and his brother inherited the penthouse. Mr. Rush H. Kress had only eight years to enjoy it: He died the next decade at age 85. In April 1990, by the time Rush Kress’ widow, Virginia, was almost an octogenarian, too, a broker memo quietly announced that the 17-room Kress duplex could be up for sale: “Possibility the widow,” that missive said, “may consider putting on market.”

But nothing happened until four years ago, when Ms. Kress died. By February 2004, Prudential Douglas Elliman broker Judy Kress Auchincloss sent out another internal memo: “Not officially on the market at this time, call me for appointments and questions. This is my son’s grandmother’s apartment.” The broker married Rush Kress’ son, Jonathan, in 1967; they later divorced.

But the apartment wasn’t put on the market until this January, when an 818-word article in the Sunday Times announced that it was quietly being offered for more than $50 million. Though one daughter wouldn’t even give her own name in an obituary for Virginia, her sister Jocelyn Kress gave apartment details and a phone number (plus her name, of course) for potential buyers in that article. Apparently they were motivated to sell.

By the spring, a small group of high-ranking brokers—including Brown Harris Stevens John Burger, Stribling & Associate’s Kirk Henckels and the Corcoran Group’s Leighton Candler—were allowed to advertise the apartment on their Web sites, with an even $50 million asking price.

None of the brokers in this article would comment, and Mr. Burger, a managing director at his firm, would only say: “The family was very specific, they did not want any advertising; they did not want any photography; they did not want any general open houses of any sort. They wanted it handled in a very discreet way, and they chose one senior individual within each important firm.”

Despite the penthouse’s clan of potent brokers, roof terraces, five staff rooms, and an 800-square-foot salon, it hasn’t sold; it’s now been taken off the market. A source said the listing came off because of “loose ends” in the estate that have to be cleared up: “Nothing scandalous.” The family could not be reached for comment.

Oddly, earlier this month, Corcoran sent out a broker announcement saying the apartment had an accepted offer. That was apparently a glitch. “There is no accepted offer,” a separate, follow-up internal note from Ms. Auchincloss said. “This is temporarily off the market.” ‘Nothing Scandalous,’ but $50 M. Kress Penthouse at 1020 Fifth Yanked Off the Market