Bonfire of the Verities

By Gross, Michael | Newsweek, January 11, 2013 | Go to article overview

Bonfire of the Verities


Gross, Michael, Newsweek


Byline: Michael Gross

Manhattan's fabled 'good buildings' are no longer its best buildings.

after shlomo Ben-Haim, an Israeli scientist-entrepreneur, made millions selling a medical-device company he'd founded with his brother, a London-based lawyer, he agreed to invest $28.9 million of the proceeds in a nine-room, four-bedroom penthouse on the 40th floor of 15 Central Park West, the Robert A.M. Stern-designed luxury condominium in Manhattan--when it was still just a hole in the ground in 2005. But months after closing, in spring 2008, Ben-Haim put it back on the market--priced at a whopping $80 million.

With its private elevator landing, 14-foot ceilings, and sweeping Hudson River and Central Park views, the apartment quickly attracted a buyer, but the threat of a huge tax bite for selling less than a year after buying convinced Ben-Haim to spurn the offer. When Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy that fall, Ben-Haim took his penthouse off the market. Finally, in February 2009, it was offered again at the recession-reduced price of $47.5 million, and was soon sold for $37 million to a limited liability company named after the Russian city Novgorod.

LLCs are typically used to shield the identities of condo buyers, so it was easy to assume, as the real-estate blog Curbed did, that the "mysterious buyer" had "Russian overtones" (just like that first tire kicker, the post-Soviet potash oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev, who would eventually buy Citigroup founder Sanford Weill's penthouse in the same building for a record-setting $88 million early last year).

I'm now finishing a book about 15 CPW, and in the process I have tried to learn who is behind the LLCs and trusts that bought many of the apartments there. Novgorod didn't give up its secret easily. But finally it did. The man behind it isn't Russian; he's an American-born, London-based banker--and was once one of the best paid in the world. According to The Guardian's annual survey of executive compensation at top public companies, he made [pounds sterling]70 million between 2006 and 2008. He also scored a [pounds sterling]10 million profit selling his seven-bedroom London townhouse in 2007, when he decided to move his family to New York.

There, outside of banking circles, he was a relative unknown. Which may explain why his name has never appeared on the oft-published lists of 15 CPW tenants--reports that sealed its status as the moment's ultimate in trophy real estate. Typically included as 15 CPW tenants are Goldman Sachs chairman Lloyd Blankfein; top executives of Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, AIG, ING, MetLife, Cantor Fitzgerald, and myriad hedge, private-equity, and alternative-investment funds; their counterparts at huge law and real-estate firms; the heads of leading health-care, biomedical, fashion, infotainment, and technology companies, including Garmin, Google, and Yahoo; celebrities like Sting, Denzel Washington, Bob Costas, Mark Wahlberg, Alex Rodriguez, Kelsey Grammer, Norman Lear, and NASCAR's Jeff Gordon; a member of the ruling al-Qassimi family of Sharjah; a Senegalese cellphone tycoon; and various rich folk from Brazil, China, Israel, India, and Russia.

Only when he entered the rogues' gallery of international finance was the man behind Novgorod LLC unmasked. When Robert Edward "Bob" Diamond III bought Ben-Haim's penthouse, he was the CEO of Barclays Capital, the investment arm of the global bank. Three years and one month later, as CEO of all of Barclays, he quit after becoming the poster child of last summer's LIBOR-fraud scandal.

Flash back to the stock market's last cataclysm in fall 1987. Then, the trophy building of the moment was 740 Park Avenue, and its residents were as well known but well hidden as Diamond in the penthouse where he now licks his wounds. One of 15 CPW's architectural and philosophical models and, until it came along, the richest building in New York, 740 was home to a flock of that era's financial high fliers: Saul Steinberg, Rand Araskog, Steve Ross, Charles Dyson, and Henry Kravis lived there alongside the first Mrs. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Bonfire of the Verities
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.