740 Park

The Story of the World’s Richest Apartment Building

"Compulsively readable."Liesl Schillinger, The New York Times

"Jaw-dropping apartment porn."Fortune

"[A] great read... gossipy... revealing."People

"As rich as his subjects."Forbes FYI

"The Lolita of shelter porn."New York Observer

"Life after folly-filled life flashes forward like Park Avenue canopies viewed from a speeding town car."New York Times

"The is social history at its finest."Dominick Dunne

"Finally! A look inside the golden tabernacle of high society."Kitty Kelley

Photo of 740 ParkFor 75 years, it’s been one of the most lusted-after addresses in the world. Even today, it is steeped in money, the kind most of us can only imagine. Until now. The story of 740 Park Avenue sweeps across the twentieth century to today, and Michael Gross tells it in glorious, intimate and unprecedented detail. From the financial shenanigans that preceded the laying of the cornerstone, to the dazzlingly and sometimes decadently rich people who hid and hide behind its walls, this is a sweeping social and economic epic, starring our wealthiest and most powerful old-money families — Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Bouvier, Chrysler, and Houghton — Greed Decade symbols Ronald Perelman, Henry Kravis, and Saul Steinberg, and the names in today’s scary financial headlines: David Koch, John Thain, Ezra Merkin and Steve Schwarzman.

October 20th, 2015

Another one bites the dust: RIP Bookhampton

Truly sad news in the inbox last night: Bookhampton, the multi-door east end independent bookseller, will close shop after this holiday season–unless a white knight comes along to save it. There are no words. And after December, there will literally be none left out there. Anyone want to step up and save the day?

March 27th, 2015

740 Park loses record, gains footnote

740 Protest
Curbed reports that Len Blavatnik, who left the Soviet Union in 1978 but still profited from its collapse via a partnership with Russian oligarch Vikor Vekselberg, has set a new New York co-op sales record with his $77.5 million purchase of New York Jets Woody Johnson‘s 14 room duplex at 834 Fifth Avenue. The previous record holder was 740 Park, where hedgie Israel “Izzy” Englander bought a second apartment in September for $71.3 million. 740, of course, had held that record previously, thanks to private equity poobah Steve Schwarzman‘s 1999 $29.9 million purchase of what had been Saul Steinberg’s duplex there. Indeed, Schwarzman held that record when Blavatnick tried to buy an apartment at 740, and its board recruited oilman and right wing financier David Koch to snatch it away (“I took it out from under his nose,” Koch boasted in an interview for my book 740 Park). Last laugh: Blavatnik. At least until Schwarzman decides to sell.

February 3rd, 2015

15CPW Takes Some Cake

The New York Observer’s Kim Velsey reports that Deutsche Bank’s Michael Lewis has sold his three-bedroom apartment at the Limestone Jesus for $25.92 million, well under his $29.99 million asking price. The Observer tentatively identifies the buyer as Asian private equity mogul Michael Kim. With the sale complete, I think it can be revealed that Alex Gibney filmed his interview with me for his film Park Avenue, based on 740 Park, in Lewis’s dining room (shown), and the setting sun view over my shoulder throughout is the one Lewis family enjoyed on a nightly basis.

January 16th, 2015

RIP Kim Fowley

I spent a few days with the rock legend Kim Fowley in the ’70s. This is, believe it or not, a great memory.

December 8th, 2014

All I want for Christmas/Chanuka is an $88 million penthouse

Rogues Gallery
But seriously, with the start of Chanuka just nine days away, why not buy your beloved a book? For art lovers just back from Art Basel, there’s Rogues’ Gallery, which the New York Times Book Review called “A blockbuster exhibition of human achievement and flaws.” Prefer real estate? But is your recipient a condo or a cooperative person? For the former, there’s House of Outrageous Fortune, the story of Manhattan’s sui generis record-setting condo, Fifteen Central Park West. “The intersecting strands of money, politics, greed, taste, ambition shine brightly,” Manuela Holterhoff of Bloomberg News wrote of the book. And cooperators can similarly reach for the heights of Manhattan real estate with 740 Park. It’s “compulsively readable,”
according to Liesl Schillinger of The New York Times.

October 27th, 2014

740 Park a New York Times bestseller!

More than nine years after it was first published, 740 Park just appeared at #18 on the New York Times e-book bestseller list. Thanks to all who put it there!

October 25th, 2014


The New York Times tomorrow offers a compelling argument for taxing the owners of the often-empty pied-a-terre luxury condominium apartments that have filled Manhattan and coincidentally raised the price of real estate beyond the reach of many who actually want to live here. Bravo.

October 7th, 2014

Get 740 Park at Queens Village prices!!!

The kindly folks at Random House are offering the e-book of 740 Park at the bargain basement price of $1.99 for the next ten days. You can buy and download it at Amazon and
Barnes & Noble.

October 7th, 2014

How I Spent my Mexico City vacation


October 6th, 2014

Correction: Angier Biddle Duke at 740 Park

duke and jfk
Biddle Duke, son of Robin and Angier Biddle Duke, once residents of 740 Park Avenue (that’s the late Angier in the photo with JFK, whom he worked for), came to my book on the building a few years late. He takes belated issue with several sentences in it, so I offered to print his note to me verbatim here, and he agreed. He writes:

Dear Mr. Gross,
This is mostly a useless exercise, because the ink’s long dry now on 740 Park. All I can say is that I wish you’d called me about Mom and Dad, Robin and Angie Duke. That building and apartment was way before my time but, regardless, some of your reporting was incorrect, and pushed some [of] my buttons enough to get me to send you this note.

There’s no way in hell that Dad inherited half of what 10 years ago amounted to $108 million. You, like so many other reporters, have picked up the fiddle that’s been played about Dad and his brother, and simply played it again.

The true story of his (and his brother’s) inheritance is far more interesting. But casting him as some great heir looking for his purpose in life had a good feel to it. Both his brother Tony Duke and Dad made great lives, but the truth on the money piece is that they were almost entirely cut out of their Duke inheritance by their father. In a dispute with his wife at the time (my grandmother, Cordelia, whom you also mention in your book), Dad’s dad (Cordelia’s husband, Angier Duke) rewrote his will only days before he died in a boating accident. The will cut her out, and left a small trust for his two boys. I assure you the trust was not worth half of $108 million when your book was published eight years ago. More like a fraction of that. Both those men parlayed their inheritance into big lives, pretending all along — or at least not loudly disabusing people of the notion — that they were heirs to a great Duke fortune. They were no such thing.

All this is briefly explained in Tony Duke’s biography, Uncharted Course. But only briefly, as both men believed correctly that it would be undignified to be anything but grateful for their lives and their wonderful ancestry.

There is more to the story, but suffice to say that to read in your book that dad inherited what amounts to $54 million in the 30s made me laugh out loud at the absurdity of it, and wonder, for a few seconds “where the heck is the money?” Then I returned to reality, and my life running a tiny Vermont media company to pay the bills.

As for your reporting that Mom was a model who landed a job at the state department when she met and married my father, I am less amused. That description might have a nice ring to to it, but it’s total baloney/bad reporting. My mother moved to New York as a teenager with no high school degree and went to work as a clerk at Lord and Taylor. She was in a few photo shoots in her late teens. She then became a reporter, and later an editor, with the New York Journal American, a city daily; then went to television news as the first woman on the Today Show with Dave Garraway. That would be even before Barbara Walters.

Loathing the show business feel of TV news and the sexism she encountered, she went to night school and studied to be a broker, which she became, eventually specializing in commodities and trading sugar. One of her accounts was Pepsi Cola. That eventually landed her a marketing job with Pepsi, and it was as a Pepsi exec that she met dad in Moscow where she was sent by Pepsi in the early 60s. At the time, she was raising two children as a single mother, aged 38. She would go on to have a bunch of other careers, one of which was as a crusader for women’s reproductive rights and family planning. But that came later.

So, your description of her in 1961 as a model who’d recently landed a job at the state department was an insulting, inaccurate brush-off that I deeply resented.

This is all an academic exercise. Your book is out and being read, and your reporting about Dad simply mimics a convenient and repeated narrative. As for the treatment of my remarkable mother, no one probably cares much. Except her children. I am one of three. I was offended as her son and as a reporter, and needed to let you know.

Biddle Duke