Only 35 years ago the French government bought it for $600,000. Today, this 18-room duplex has become the most expensive apartment sold in New York City, after hard-fought negotiations that raised its price to $70 million.
By Heike Söns
At number 740 Park Avenue— right on the corner of 71st street— in Manhattan’s posh Lenox Hill neighborhood stands one of the most iconic buildings in the city of skyscrapers. Designed by Italian-American architect Rosario Candela, this imposing art deco building from 1929 has been home to personalities such as John D. Rockefeller Jr. and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
The 19-story building boasts a magnificent limestone facade and houses 31 apartments, including the most expensive— by far— in the history of New York real estate. Owned by the French government, it was used as the residence of its ambassador to the United Nations, Gerard Araud, this 18-room duplex occupies floors 12 and 13 of the historic building.
"Many New York tycoons came to see the apartment," said Ambassador Araud. Worthy of kings, the 7,534-square-foot duplex has double height ceilings, classical moldings, five fireplaces, private elevator, 38 windows and a small terrace. Its elegant staircase leads to the second floor, where the impressive two-bedroom master suite is located. Fine marble and precious woods take center stage in the stately living rooms. A dining room for 10 guests has a magnificent view, while its spacious studio is decorated with luxurious fabrics and a fireplace. The spectacular duplex was originally purchased in 1979 by the French government for the sum of $600,000—the equivalent of 1.9 million dollars today—which means an unprecedented 3,500 percent gain for the coffers of the French state.
The property was listed on the market at an estimated value of $48 million and the news of its availability sparked a bidding war among three different candidates. The best offer then came from American billionaire Israel "Izzy" Englander paying $70 million for the spectacular unit.
Founder of the Millennium hedge fund with a personal fortune estimated at 3.3 billion, Englander already owns an apartment on the 14th floor of the legendary building. However, the billionaire was determined to acquire the neighboring duplex as a pied-à-terre for his children and grandchildren during their visits to the city. The son of Jewish Polish immigrants who survived the Holocaust, Englander was born in Brooklyn in 1948. He ventured for the first time in the world of business while still a student, buying and selling stocks. He is also known for his philanthropic work: in 2006, he donated $20 million, primarily to schools and Jewish organizations. Israel Englander founded Millennium Management in 1989 with an initial investment of $35 million, and currently, the firm manages more than 23 billion dollars in assets. See amazing luxury properties in New York.
Once the transaction is formally completed, the ambassador will move to a nearby apartment, albeit not as expensive at number 435 East 52nd Street. ■
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