If you lean back, close your eyes, switch on some easy listening and forget that high-heeled Manhattan real estate has slowed to a crestfallen crawl, maybe you’ll be able to pretend things are just as good as they were back on June 19, 2007.
That’s when Fortress Investment Group cofounder and COO Randal Nardone, three months removed from a Forbes billionaires list that ranked him as the world’s 557th richest man, signed a $22 million contract for a glass-walled duplex “skyhome” at the new Tribeca condo 101 Warren Street. (The 5,769-square-foot, five-bedroom apartment, with a 2,386-square-foot terrace, happens to actually be above the units listed as penthouses.)
A few months earlier, a real estate investor named Keith Rubenstein had agreed to pay $20 million for the sprawl, even putting down a $2 million deposit. But he reportedly got “a yen for something bigger” after his firm sold a Chelsea office building for a huge profit; he worried that the duplex would not be large enough.
He ended up buying a $35 million mansion uptown, and 101 Warren Street’s developer, the art collector Ed Minskoff, allowed Mr. Rubenstein to get that $2 million deposit back. The luxury real estate world was so widely and grinningly cocky last year that the duplex’s price was raised to $22 million; a few weeks later, Mr. Nardone came and signed his contract.
He finally closed earlier this month, buying through a limited liability corporation called WEEUNO—whose billing address is an uptown apartment that Mr. Nardone bought three years ago for $6.321 million. But November 2008 is different from July 2007: His Fortress stock has suffered a steep downfall since it went public early last year. On Tuesday afternoon, the share price was down to a new 52-week low, $2.22. The 52-week high was $19.50. Mr. Nardone did not make this year’s Forbes billionaires list.
Meanwhile, that would-be buyer, Mr. Rubenstein, was disbarred in February because of his connection to a personal-injury practice in Long Island City. The firm belonged to a non-attorney whose money came from taxicab medallions.