By January 1996, the billionaire Les Wexner hadn’t spent two months in his 21,000-square-foot stone mansion on East 71st Street, even though he had bought the place seven years earlier, his protégé Jeffrey Epstein told The Times. Never mind that it had been outfitted with a hidden lead-lined bathroom (with a closed-circuit TV) and a heated sidewalk to keep the mansion snow-free. Mr. Epstein, who has since become a billionaire as well, eventually moved into that mansion—because, of course, real estate is a terrible thing to waste.
This week Mr. Wexner is doing something else with his family’s rarely used duplex at 834 Fifth Avenue, easily one of the three most lusted after apartment houses in New York City. According to two sources, the co-op is now very discreetly available through Sotheby’s broker Serena Boardman and Key-Ventures’ A. Larry Kaiser IV. The price is $60 million.
In October, the widowed philanthropist Courtney Sale Ross’ apartment at the similarly palatial 740 Park went on the market for “over $60 million,” according to The Observer. Both listings are being handled with a very proper kind of quietness: no open houses; no ads; no public photos; and no publicly available listings to ogle.
Mr. Wexner, whose conglomerate owns, among other things, Victoria’s Secret, paid a reported $9 million for the fifth-floor duplex in 1997. His seller, an Italian named Eduarda Crociani, had wanted $12 million, but the sprawl was a fixer-upper. There wasn’t even air-conditioning in the summertime. “You almost gagged to death,” a source said. (Incidentally, Rupert Murdoch, who now has 834 Fifth Avenue’s penthouse triplex, owned the duplex years earlier.)
Cooling aside, Mr. Wexner’s five-bedroom, 16-room apartment is meek compared to the yacht he built that same year (Limitless was once the longest in the world by 110 feet), or compared to the heated-sidewalk townhouse, or to the East 78th Street mansion his firm bought in 1985 for office space. He put it back on the market within a few years, though it finally sold for a reported $32 million in 2000.
This January, Mr. Wexner’s wife, Abigail, bought a 3,480-square-foot apartment at 15 Central Park West for $13.1 million. A source said the condo is for Ms. Wexner’s mother (wonderfully named Zipora “Zippy” Goldman Koppel); Ms. Wexner wanted to buy the unit above her mother’s so that the condos could be combined into a very big, very happy family duplex. But the windows in the higher unit turned out to be unsatisfactory.
“It’s not the same view,” Ms. Wexner said, according to the source.
But even if they’re not expanding at 15 Central Park West, the couple is willing to leave 834 Fifth, where their sprawl was apparently designed by Thierry Despont, Bill Gates’ decorator. “It’s a very traditional apartment; it has magnificent things in it and beautiful workmanship. What else can you say? It’s not chintzy,” the source said. “This is much more conservative, it’s like going into a grand Virginia home or an English men’s club in certain rooms.”
Upstairs, there’s extra space taken from the next-door apartment, thanks to renovations that were done many years ago. Downstairs, among other things, is a corner living room facing the park. On the downside, no co-op has ever sold for over $50 million, and $60 million is very much a late-2007 price tag in early 2009. But Mr. Wexner isn’t a rushed seller. “They truly do not use it,” a broker who’s not connected to the duplex listing said. “It sits there in very mint condition.”
Mr. Wexner and his two brokers would not comment.