Confidence Man: Rosen Turns Down $60 M.-Plus Offers for Mansion; Holds Out for Likable Buyer

Any New Yorker who’s asked about potential buyers’ interest in his tectonically enormous real estate is likely to exaggerate a bit. A biomedical venture capitalist, for example, told The Times in May that he’d turned down “five or six” offers as high as $100 million for his 15 Central Park West duplex, which didn’t quite make sense because, among other things, his asking price was only $90 million.

But Aby Rosen, the rosy-cheeked, silver-haired, German-accented real estate tycoon who owns (besides a painfully gorgeous modern art collection) Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building and the Lever House across the street, is a more reliable boaster than most.

On Monday evening, after Kips Bay announced that its 37th annual Decorator Show House will be held this April and May at his 45-foot-wide limestone mansion at 22 East 71st Street, which, at $75 million, is far and away the most expensive official residential listing in New York City, Mr. Rosen was chatting about the 1922 house. The developer, whom Tom Wolfe once described in the opening line of a story as posing chin up and tummy out, casually mentioned that he’d gotten two offers above $60 million for it.

“Uh-huh, yup,” he said. A $60 million real estate deal would, of course, shatter New York residential records. “Have you been to this house? Honestly! Forget about all the bullshit. It’s the best house in New York City. It’s awesome. If I hadn’t just finished my house’s renovation, I would move in there in a heartbeat.”

Mr. Rosen said that he got the two offers last year (as a second source confirmed), before the market dove into its winter freeze: “One was too low, and the other I didn’t like the guy.”

It’s odd but awesome that Mr. Rosen wouldn’t accept a record-breaking offer from someone simply because he didn’t like the guy. “I didn’t feel like it. … In hindsight I should have taken it, but I didn’t. So what’s the difference?” He would not name either bidder, and wouldn’t even say where the second was from: “I’m not telling you because it will make you think I don’t like these people.”

Mr. Rosen paid only $15.65 million for the house in August 2004, but won’t cut his $75 million asking price. “You know what? The guy who wants it will pay whatever. It doesn’t make a difference if I put it at 65 or 75, I will find somebody who will understand this house. If it sells this year, it will sell this year; if not, it will sell next year.”

Listing brokers Meredyth Smith and Serena Boardman had no comment.

According to a Kips Bay press release, uptown designers like Bunny Williams (and, somehow, Gloria Vanderbilt) will be dressing up the mansion’s rooms, which, lucky for Mr. Rosen, helps less imaginative prospective buyers see what the former art gallery would look like as a single-family mansion. And it also helps everyone forget that the place recently housed Salander-O’Reilly’s dealership, which shut down two years ago amid Lawrence Salander’s downfall. “Look,” Mr. Rosen said, “a great dealer, but he went crazy and things went downhill for him. It’s a sad story.” 

Despite the Kips Bay dress-up, and despite the house’s gargantuan girth, is the $75 million asking price a tad unwarranted? “I just want something fair for the house,” Mr. Rosen said. “Look, a guy who gets it, I’ll sell it to him even at a lower number. If someone has the balls, he should do that. You have to have the vision; 45 feet wide is big living, my friend.”

Confidence Man: Rosen Turns Down $60 M.-Plus Offers for Mansion; Holds Out for Likable Buyer