8/26/09

Observer's Max Abelson: Real Estate Vultures Circling J. Ezra Merkin's Park Avenue Apartment

Real estate vultures have no context - just properties and prices.

Max Abelson writes in the Observer that the real estate vultures are salivating over the J. Ezra Merkin 740 Park Avenue duplex.

BTW - We hear that Ezra had dinner on Sunday night at the Sand's Hotel at the Atlantic Beach Jewish Center's annual fund raiser for which he anted up a mere $5000 to become a sponsor and hold on to some last vestiges of synagogue respectability.

At the Observer, Abelson in his 9 page slide show is so only interested in square feet and asking price. The article in the Observer is oh-my so cutting and vicious that we almost felt sorry for poor Ezra. But not quite.

Get you Kleenex out, it's a tear-jerker.
The Juiciest Madoff Fruit
The year’s most wildly frothed-over piece of plump New York real estate isn’t officially on the market. It’s not even one of those quiet listings, like the philanthropist Courtney Sale Ross’ duplex at 740 Park Avenue, which was mutedly made available late last year for more than $60 million.This co-op is six floors below hers. And it’s even nicer.

Apartment 6/7B at 740 Park belongs to the disgraced financier J. Ezra Merkin, whose clients lost around $2.4 billion in the Madoff Ponzi scheme. Brokers are talking; enquiring; circling. “I keep hearing, ‘It’s going to come on, it’s going to come on, it’s going to come on,’” one Brown Harris Stevens managing director said this week, “but nothing concrete, nothing solid.”

“I keep looking for Merkin,” another Brown Harris director offered. “And I keep after it.”

“For sure, that thing is coming. It’s not if, it’s when,” a Sotheby’s agent said. They think Mr. Merkin will have no choice but to sell—and that he would reap more than the $32 million that a neighbor got in the building last year.

It’s been a bad year. So far Mr. Merkin has resigned from the General Motors financing arm GMAC, which lost almost $8 billion during his chairmanship; he agreed to a massive sale of his art collection after being charged with fraud by the New York attorney general, who alleges that he took more than $470 million in fees for simply passing clients’ money to Mr. Madoff; he’s even stepped down from his leadership role at Fifth Avenue Synagogue, founded by his father.

Will the duplex really come on the market? Could his price be more than $40 million? And might his broker be blue-blooded Edward Lee Cave, who handled Ms. Ross’ place? Mr. Cave said there’s been “no communication,” and he’s no longer showing Ms. Ross’ quiet duplex. But: “I was assuming he’s so wrapped in the whole Jewish community, he’d be using someone who is Jewish,” one goy offered.

Original floor plans obtained by The Observer—they’re old, hard to read, almost certainly outdated in places, and godly—show a colossal but beautifully organized duplex. This is an 18-room, eight-bathroom, six-bedroom sprawl that would be luridly gargantuan if it weren’t so poetic. The flow pulls you from the darkness of the rear maids’ spaces, all six of them, to the light on Park.

“It happens to be a great layout, and it happens to wrap a corner, and it happens to be a great building, and it happens to be a great location,” one broker said. “So it’s prime." - Max Abelson

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