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Where New York's
Billionaires Live

Some of the world’s richest people live in four well-known buildings off New York’s Central Park. But the high life doesn’t always mean staying above the fray: lawsuits, paparazzi, the occasional house arrest.

What I Did
The reporter did a lot of digging in public records to get sales data and locate court rulings. I helped synthesize that reporting and worked extensively with the legal team to vet the information before publication.

By Nancy Keates

A financier under house arrest. Beyoncé swarmed by paparazzi. Accusations of a stolen Warhol self-portrait. On a 20-block stretch just off Manhattan’s Central Park, where some of the world’s richest industry titans, business scions and hedge-fund moguls live, paying millions for one of the world’s most expensive homes doesn’t always ensure security and quiet. ​

Four buildings along this corridor have homeowners whose collective net worth could finance a NASA shuttle mission. These high rises fall into two categories: grand, prewar, cooperative apartments that were once the domiciles of Rockefellers and Vanderbilts; and glassy, glitzy condos loaded with amenities like screening rooms and room service from Le Cirque.

Even the ritziest buildings aren’t immune to market forces. Some have seen record-breaking sales, while others have seen prices cut by millions of dollars in hopes of a sale. Last year, the number of signed contracts on apartments priced above $4 million fell 20% compared with 2015, according to a report by Olshan Realty. But January and February sales show signs of a rebound. Signed contracts on properties priced at $4 million and above are up 41% so far this year, Olshan Realty reports.

Here is a snapshot of four of Manhattan’s most exclusive addresses. Many of the purchases were made under limited-liability companies, which mask the identity of the owners. Owners cited here declined to comment, so details have been collected from public records and interviews with real-estate agents and building residents.

740 Park Avenue

Many in Manhattan see owning a duplex in this 1930 co-op building as the pinnacle of success, says Michael Gross, author of “740 Park: The Story of the World’s Richest Apartment Building.”

Stephen Schwarzman paid over $30 million in 2000 for a 20,000-square-foot, 34-room apartment at 740 Park—a record for a Manhattan apartment at the time. According to public records, Mr. Schwarzman, CEO of private-equity firm Blackstone Group, purchased the unit from insurance mogul Saul Steinberg, who bought the unit for $285,000 in 1971 from the estate of John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s second wife, Mary.

Since then, the building has set other Manhattan sales records. In 2012, Howard Marks co-founder of global asset-management firm Oaktree Capital, paid $52 million for a 22,000-square-foot duplex. Two years later, billionaire hedge-fund manager Israel Englander set another record when he paid $71.3 million for an apartment there, records show.

Only three of the building’s 31 units have sold since 2014, with a median price of $44.6 million, according to the real-estate research website PropertyShark. Currently on the market is a 14-room duplex listed for $29.5 million. Once the childhood home of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, it’s owned by hedge-fund manager David Ganek, whose Level Global Investors was raided in 2010 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation looking into allegations of insider trading. Mr. Ganek was never charged with any crime, and he is currently suing the U.S. attorney’s office and FBI agents involved in the investigation.

Separately, four incidents of jewelry theft took place in 2013 that, according a spokesman with the New York Police Department, resulted in over $200,000 in losses. A spokeswoman for Brown Harris Stevens, which manages the building, declined to comment.

In April, a fire that started in the sauna of the sixth-floor apartment owned by hedge-fund manager J. Ezra Merkin caused extensive water damage in the unit below, owned by philanthropist and political activist David Koch, according to news reports.

In June, semiconductor billionaire Hamburg Tang and his wife, Miranda, sued the building’s co-op board and Mr. Marks, their upstairs neighbor, who was renovating his apartment, according to a lawsuit filed in New York Supreme Court. Construction started in early 2012 and was supposed to have been finished by September 2014 but was still going strong as of June 2016, causing “irreplaceable artwork” to fall off the walls and Mrs. Tang to be “abruptly woken almost every morning before 9 a.m. by the sound of heavy machinery banging crashing, hammering and drilling,” the lawsuit contends.

The Tangs declined to comment, but their attorney, Adam Leitman Bailey, says the suit is “90% settled.” The judge ordered that work must comply with “structural alterations” rules. Mr. Marks and the co-op board declined to comment.

151 E. 58th St.

One Beacon Court, a 2005 development, is also known as Bloomberg Tower because its first 25 floors are taken up by the media company. Condo residents in this renovated department store get valet parking and a separate menu for en suite dining from Le Cirque.

The building has seen its share of drama. It has a private motor court and an underground elevator from the garage, but neither of these kept the paparazzi from surrounding the property in 2008 when Beyoncé, a resident at the time, announced her marriage to Jay Z.

One Beacon Court is where Marc Dreier, an attorney found guilty of securities fraud, lived briefly in 2009 under house arrest. Mr. Dreier’s apartment sold to Ajit Jain, often referred to as Warren Buffett’s successor at Berkshire Hathaway, for $8.3 million in 2009, according to public records. Former attorney Scott Rothstein lived there in 2009 when he was charged with running a Ponzi scheme. He was later convicted.

According to real-estate broker Victoria Shtainer, who lives in the building, one tenant was arrested and escorted out of the building; he was found guilty of selling faulty bulletproof vests to the military.

Currently the building is home to both former General Electric CEO Jack Welch and current CEO Jeff Immelt, according to public records, as well as several Renaissance Technologies hedge-fund executives. Since 2014, 10 units have sold at One Beacon Court with a median price of $7.1 million, according to PropertyShark.

834 Fifth Avenue

Home to securities-brokerage founder Charles Schwab and business scion Robert Bass, 834 Fifth Avenue has generated few scandals. One exception was in 2015, when Tracey Hejailan-Amon accused her ex-husband, Maurice Alain Amon, of taking artwork, including Andy Warhol’s 1966 “Self-Portrait,” out of the apartment while she was away. The lawsuit was dismissed in Manhattan Supreme Court. Mr. Amon had no comment.

The 1931 building currently holds the record for Manhattan’s priciest co-op sale. In 2015, billionaire investor Leonard Blavatnik paid $77.5 million for the apartment owned by New York Jets owner Woody Johnson.

Currently on the market is a 20-room, 12,000-square-foot duplex asking $96 million. The seller is Susan Gutfreund, widow of financier John Gutfreund. Since 2014, 10 units in the building have sold with a median price of $30.5 million, according to PropertyShark.

432 Park Avenue

At 1,396 feet tall, 432 Park is currently the tallest residential building in the world. It opened just last year, and the sale of an $87.7 million penthouse holds the record for the most expensive condo sale in 2016. According to real-estate website the Real Deal, Saudi retail magnate Fawaz Al Hokair, bought the 8,255-square-foot full-floor penthouse.

Of its 104 units, 81 sold in 2016, with a median sale price of $18.4 million, according to PropertyShark. Currently there are 18 apartments for sale, ranging from $6.5 million to $82 million.

It’s this building where owners might feel the greatest impact of a new law that took effect in Manhattan last year. It requires purchases of $3 million or more made through limited-liability companies to disclose the identity of the buyer to government regulators. Many of the priciest sales here have come from foreign buyers, and many of the transactions have taken place under LLCs. Still, 432 Park has attracted some wealthy Americans, including Bob Prince of investment-management firm Bridgewater Associates and real-estate mogul Howard Lorber, who owns Douglas Elliman, which is handling marketing and sales for the building.

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