House of Outrageous Fortune

Fifteen Central Park West, The World's Most Powerful Address

"[Tom] Wolfe's gift was in summing up an era through his description of [Sherman] McCoy and his environs. Michael Gross has done likewise by taking us inside the most expensive, most powerful address in the world....Stunning."Michael Smerconish, CNN

"Michael Gross, an author with a delicate appreciation for bloated egos and wealth, makes them glitter in 'House of Outrageous Fortune: Fifteen Central Park West, the World's Most Powerful Address.' The intersecting strands of money, politics, greed, taste, ambition shine brightly."Manuela Hoelterhoff, Bloomberg News

“Michael Gross’s new book…packs [in] almost as many stories as there are apartments in the building (202). The Jackie Collins of real estate likes to map expressions of power, money and ego…even more crammed with billionaires and their exploits than 740 Park.”Penelope Green, New York Times

"Michael Gross, America’s answer to Robin Leach, takes another gossip-laden bite out of the upper crust in his dishy House of Outrageous Fortune: Fifteen Central Park West, the World’s Most Powerful Address. What’s remarkable is the degree of access Mr. Gross was granted or finagled, a reflection that ego has no bounds.”Sam Roberts, New York Times

"If anyone needs convincing that the richest of the rich have continued to get richer, unaffected by the financial crash of 2008 and the subsequently misfiring economy, here is the proof...Still [Gross] demonstrates conclusively the abiding truth of Clare Booth Luce's observation, 'Money can't buy happiness, but it can make you awfully comfortable while you're being miserable.'"The Economist

“Michael Gross…rules[s] the school of literature you might call Books About Buildings Where Lots of Rich People Live.”Paul Goldberger, Vanity Fair

"All the glittery details [on] the Downtown Abbey of Manhattan."Vanessa Golembewski, Refinery29

"A deliciously detailed and completely engaging look at how the 0.1 percent live."Booklist (starred review)

"Michael Gross...has made the privacy-mad 1% of New York crazy because he investigates and tells their many secrets. This is called a scandal in some sections; journalistic excellence in others. Outrageous...fun."Liz Smith, The Huffington Post

"A steamy tell-all."--Radar Online

"A lot of fun, and definitely worth a read."Curbed New York

"Gross takes a building, Fifteen Central Park West, and uses it to describe the face-off between exclusive co-ops and democratic condos, and between the old families of the Upper East Side and upstarts moving into the Upper West Side....“Well-told…full of both contempt and admiration…overindulgence…irony..."Publishers Weekly

"House of Outrageous Fortune pulls back the limestone curtain of 15 Central Park West to reveal seismic shifts in New York society and the astonishing lifestyle-without-limits of the new global elite. It's a dishy — but not trashy — page-turner." Barbara Corcoran, founder of the Corcoran Group and star of ABC's Shark Tank

"Michael Gross has done it again! In intricate and revelatory detail, he shows how Fifteen Central Park West became the most famous and talked-about building in Manhattan: It's the people who live there, of course, and Gross gives us a front-row seat on their passions, their antics and why they want the very best money can buy." William D. Cohan, author of Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World

"Both an incisive social commentary on our modern Gilded Age and an irresistible peek behind the walls of 15 Central Park West, otherwise known as "Limestone Jesus." With characteristic audacity and wit, Michael Gross has deftly chronicled the immense egos (and bank accounts) of the nouveau riche who reside at Manhattan's most coveted address." Karen Abbott, author of Sin in the Second City and American Rose

"Want to understand what Occupy Wall Street was about? In House of Outrageous Fortune, Michael Gross explains it--and then some. With a rollicking, informative history of New York City, tales of mega real estate fortunes made and lost, and dizzying examples of the super-wealthy's greed and ostentation, Gross deftly traces the arc of America both socially and financially and proves that the top two percent most certainly do not live like you or I." Dana Thomas author of Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster

"Michael Gross captures the phenomenon that is 15 Central Park West, where creative talent, towering ambition and unimaginable wealth instill a magical aura of glamour and romance not seen in a Gotham apartment house since the Gatsby era." Peter Pennoyer, Architect, author and chairman of The Institute of Classical Architecture & Art

In real-estate-obsessed New York, no new building has captured the city’s imagination—or as many of its richest residents—like Fifteen Central Park West.
In House of Outrageous Fortune, America’s foremost chronicler of the upper-crust, journalist and bestselling author Michael Gross, turns his much-admired gimlet eye on the new-money wonderland that’s sprung up on the southwest rim of Central Park, and mixes an engrossing business epic with hilarious social comedy to create a dishy exposé of today’s most wealthy and famous. This is the colorful story of a record-setting building’s inspired genesis and costly construction as well as the flashy international lifestyle it has brought to a once benighted and socially déclassé Manhattan neighborhood.
With two concierge-staffed lobbies, a walnut-lined library, a lavish screening room, a private sixty-seat restaurant offering residents room service, a health club complete with a seventy-foot swimming pool, and penthouses that cost almost $100 million, Fifteen is the most outrageously successful, insanely expensive, titanically tycoon-stuffed real estate development of the 21st century. And you know any building that’s home to such unimaginable wealth and heavyweight egos—its cast of characters includes Denzel Washington, Sting, Alex Rodriquez, Norman Lear, NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon, hedge fund heads Daniel Loeb and Daniel Och, Russian and Chinese oligarchs, and top executives of Citibank, JPMorganChase, Lehman Brothers, AIG, Disney, Google, and Yahoo!, among many more–will be chock-full of jaw-dropping excess. Not to mention astonishing stories.
Gross won unprecedented access to the people behind this instantly legendary building, including the scions of the fabled Zeckendorf real estate dynasty, their financial backers, Goldman Sachs and Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, and their starchitect Robert A.M. Stern. Then, he drilled into its limestone façade to ferret out the stories Fifteen’s fathers and its residents don’t want told. [Starting with a wide-angle look at how Manhattan developed as two cities--east side and west side, one patrician, the other more ethnic and less wealthy--the book reveals the larger story of how the wall between the two broke down, turning New York into a magnet for the emerging Global Super-elite that runs our world.]
The aging financial lions of the mid-20th century have given way to a brash new pride that feasts on the 21st-century economy and then beds down at 15CPW. More than just an apartment building, it represents a massive paradigm shift in the lifestyle of New York’s rich and famous—and is a bellwether of the city’s changing social and financial landscape. With unmatched access, prodigious enterprise and dazzling detail, House of Outrageous Fortune is a sweeping history of those changes, and pulls open wide the gilded walls of Fifteen to reveal the private lives of that .01%.

November 23rd, 2015

Supertalls drooping? Tightening the Billionaire’s Belt

one57-craneKatherine Clark of The Real Deal’s report last week that the “irrational exuberance” among developers of apartments for the super-wealthy is waning, according to participants in a recent realty summit, seems to confirm anecdotal reports that have filtered into and through Gripepad in recent months. “The market today is very slow in terms of high-end condo sales,” Related CEO Steve Ross said. Realtors working the high end have recently whispered that sales have stalled at a certain already open-for-occupancy West 57th Street supertall tower and that the developers of others, just rising out of the ground, are wondering where all the billionaires and easy money have gone. As reported in my just-published profile of Aby Rosen in Centurion magazine (teased yesterday by Richard Johnson; check back here for a link when it’s unlocked), Rosen has priced many apartments at his new Sir Norman Foster-designed 100 East 53rd Street well below $10 million–and that’s looking all the more like a clever move. While Robert A.M. Stern‘s Fifteen Central Park West clone, 220 Central Park South, is said to be selling at a rapid clip, this news could darken the holidays for other developers. But look on the bright side: This could mean Central Park won’t soon be totally cloaked in shadows.

November 4th, 2015

15CPW drops a notch after seven years as NYC’s costliest building

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It was inevitable that Fifteen Central Park West would have to give up its crown as Manhattan’s most expensive building, but its seven-year run has nonetheless been impressive, and the building that finally usurped it owes it and its developers, Will and Arthur Zeckendorf, Eyal Ofer‘s Global Holdings, and Goldman Sachs, a great debt of thanks for setting the stage for the emergence of the Billionaire’s Belt that now girds fat-cat Midtown Manhattan, stretching from 15CPW at West 61st Street’ along 57th Street, past Beacon Court and on to two East Side towers by Sir Norman Foster, 50 United Nations Plaza, now filling up on the corner of East 47th Street and First Avenue and 100 East 53rd Street (now rising at Lexington Avenue). CityRealty’s 100 Report, released today details the state of luxury development–and makes fascinating reading, whether you approve or not. The background of this luxury boom–a story in which presidential canditate Donald J. Trump also looms large–is told in full in House of Outrageous Fortune. Now, the big question is: How long will usurper One57 hold the apartment sales throne? Will even newer buildings like 432 Park, 220 Central Park South and 520 Park cut Extell’s erection down to size? Watch this space.

October 20th, 2015

Another one bites the dust: RIP Bookhampton

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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?

October 14th, 2015

A Tweet from 15CPW comes to Twitter

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Reuters reports that Iranian-American Omid Kordestani, an early Google executive, is moving to Twitter as its new executive chairman. Kordestani and wife Gisel own a duplex on the 16th and 17th floors of Fifteen Central Park West, between hedge hog Barry Rosenstein of Jana Partners and wife Lizann and Sting and wife Trudie Styler. Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs lives with wife Laura on Rosenstein’s other side, making the floor a trick-or-treater’s delight.

October 2nd, 2015

Billion Dollar Babies (plus an ink-stained wretch)

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Will and Arthur Zeckendorf, co-developers of Fifteen Central Park West, launched the sales gallery for their latest project, 520 Park, another Robert A.M. Stern limestone-clad production, this week–and we realized we’d never before posed for a picture together. They’re not really taller than me; they’re standing on their wallets. (Photo by Craig Barritt)

September 21st, 2015

Salezapoppin’ at 15CPW

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Apartment 8A at Fifteen Central Park West is in contract for $35 million, reports Donna Olshan of Olshan Realty, which issues a weekly report on contracts signed for New York apartments selling for $4 million or more. As usual, count on Gripepad to name names. The seller, lurking behind an LLC called Swiftsure Property, and soon to slightly more than double his $17 million investment on the four bedroom, 4,565 square foot spread, is Gerald E. Ross, a litigator and name partner in Fryer & Ross, a firm that specializes in “sophisticated litigation and arbitration in the areas of insurance coverage, securities regulation, RICO, protection of high technology intellectual property rights and partnership law, particularly as it relates to lawyers and their former law firms,” according to its web site. Ross, who moonlights as a condominium investor, also owns unit 8B next door, for which he paid just over $11 million.

September 18th, 2015

Indonesia on the Hudson: Fifteen owner asks $31 million

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Last night, Mansion Global, the Wall Street Journal’s real estate spinoff, revealed the latest listing at Fifteen Central Park West, subject of House of Outrageous Fortune–apartment 28D, a three bedroom corner spread with three exposures, listed for $31 million. As is so often the case with condos on the billionaire’s belt, the owner is hidden behind a corporate name, Christopher Properties, a California-based real estate investment company. The broker describes that owner as “an international entrepreneur who previously used the residence as a pied-à-terre.” In fact, the occupant of the apartment is an Indonesian named Andre Kohar, a director of that firm, but it appears the real owner is a relative, Kindarto Kohar, a former executive of P.T. Panggung Electric Citrabuana, a manufacturer of consumer electronics. As my pal Cindy Adams might say, who else will tell you these things?

August 12th, 2015

Bad decor but a great address

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Curbed just found another new eight-figure listing at Fifteen Central Park West. The décor is underwhelming, but the space is, well, outrageous. Though I’m not sure I would want to bunk directly underneath Dan and Margaret Loeb, someone will surely want that position. Curbed asked me why several 15CPW units have come onto the market. Which is interesting, given that units are reportedly languishing at the nearby Blue Penis (One57), even as flipping there continues, no one is talking much about sales at 220 or 432 or Nordstrom or the Economist tower or 520 Park. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that’s because investors are worried about a looming oversupply of eight figure apartments. And who knows what new ideas Bill De Blasio is cooking up for taxing their owners. Is the condomania kicked off by sponsor sales at 15CPW over? Do the myriad troubles in Russia and China mean their flight-capital nationals are no longer coming to NYC to roost? 15CPW investors (as opposed to owners) may be thinking this is the moment to cash out–when they can still get 3X the initial offering price. Not a bad return on investment.

August 5th, 2015

Polo player chukkas 15CPW pad

The New York Observer reports that apartment 35D at Fifteen Central Park West has come on the market for $33 million, but calls the sellers “whoever they are.” Whoever they are is “Victor Vargas, a Venezuelan banker with six homes, a polo team, and a daughter who married Luis Alfonso de Borbón, a great-grandson of Francisco Franco and relative of the king of Spain,” they could have learned from House of Outrageous Fortune. “Vargas lives there with his girlfriend, Maria Beatriz Hernandez Rodriguez.” The NYO does correctly note that Vargas bought the place from Donald Opatrny, a former Goldman Sachs partner who was one of a clutch of Goldman guys among the original purchasers. Need it be said that the rich get richer–especially on the Billionare’s Belt? Opatrny paid $11.8 million for the place.

July 29th, 2015

Over-reaching at 15CPW?

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The late insurance benefits executive Richard Ullman’s duplex “penthouse” at 15 Central Park West is back on the market a year after it was sold, asking $65 million, a slight increase over the $62.5 million the estate originally wanted, but a whopping increase over the $48 million the current owners, tucked inside an opaque LLC called 15CPW PHB (NYC), paid for it. It’s interesting to note that when the building was brand-new, Ullman tried to sell it before he even moved in for $55 million, but failed to get his price. After his death in 2011, the duplex was the focus of a legal battle between Ullman’s children and his second wife. The widow lost and it was listed again two years ago. (You can read more about the runup to that sale in House of Outrageous Fortune).Curbed New York calls the current price “completely batshit.” And the fact that it isn’t really a penthouse (Dmitry Rybolovlev‘s $88 million apartment above is the real thing), and is the 15CPW equivalent of a landlocked Midwestern state–with larger apartments on either side, it has windows only front and back, making it a rich man’s railroad flat–supports Curbed’s typically brash opinion. So who might think they’ll get that price? It seems likely the hidden owner is Chinese, as the broker on the sale, Janice Chang, is from Taiwan and speaks fluent Mandarin according to her Elliman bio. And as recent news tells us, the Chinese know a lot about price bubbles.