How Larry Gagosian Stole the Harkness

The Harkness Mansion, with scaffolding (Photo from Curbed)

It was a steal, after all. As The Observer noted earlier today, art dealer Larry Gagosian purchased the Harkness Mansion for $36.5 million, a surprisingly low price for the property that fetched $53 million just five years ago, the largest price for a single property in the history of New York, in fact.

The broker who represented the previous owner, Christopher Flowers, both when he purchased the home in 2006 and on the latest deal, is Sami Hassoumi of Brown Harris Stevens.

Mr. Hassoumi explained to The Observer this afternoon that there is more to this deal than meets the eye. Five years ago, Mr. Flowers bought a mansion. When the property hit the market two years ago, however, the property was no longer a habitable abode, but, as Mr. Hassoumi described it, “a dark hole.”

Mr. Flowers had planned an extensive renovation of the mansion but, as source explained, his sudden divorce battle stopped construction dead in its tracks.  “What I was showing wasn’t a house, it was a construction site,” Mr. Hassoumi explained. Gone were the mansion’s ornate details and the lavish main staircase. “I had a temporary construction staircase that was scary… We had to wear hardhats.” He said some prospective buyers reeled at the prospect of donning so unfashionable an accessory when looking at a multimillion-dollar home.

Mr. Gagosian will ultimately benefit from the construction. Mr. Hassoumi explained that before the renovations started, Mr. Flowers had gone through the lengthy (and pricey) process of getting his plans approved by the city. Although Mr. Gagosian certainly has a project on his hands, he won’t need to start anew on the construction plans. Instead, he can amend the designs drafted by Mr. Flowers and his now-estranged wife.

So, according to Mr. Hassoumi, the sheer numbers on the deal don’t tell the whole story. “It just doesn’t reflect the reality and facts,” he said.

The housing market, still punchy from the recession, also played a role in the relatively low sales price. “What people don’t understand is that, of course, we’re talking about a totally  different market,” Mr. Hassoumi said.

Mr. Gagosian swooped in, then, at a very opportune moment: A housing market, a dissolving marriage, and a stalled construction project all contributed to the bargain he got on the property. How Larry Gagosian Stole the Harkness