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%.

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.

July 17th, 2015

Rizzoli Redux

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In rare good news from the world of brick-and-mortar book retailing, Rizzoli Bookstore, forced from its gorgeous West 57th Street location by a developer last spring, has announced its Phoenix-like return. It will re-open on Broadway and West 26th Street on July 27th. Auguri!

June 15th, 2015

Battling Billionaires: LA Strikes Back

elon1The Billionaire’s Belt in midtown Manhattan isn’t the only place where the .01 percent are spending mounds of money on real estate. The Hilton-Hyland realty blog, run by Bilal Khan, formerly of Curbed, today spotlights a Billionaire’s Hill in Bel Air, one of the neighborhoods featured in Unreal Estate. Want to rub garden hoses with Elon Musk (pictured)? He’s today’s king of the hill.

June 9th, 2015

15 CPW: Still the Tops

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Fifteen Central Park West remains the city’s most expensive apartment building, according to CityRealty. So while observers of the primates of Park Avenue engage in (quite possibly sexist) arguments over the lives of wives of the East Side wealthy, and whether the latest truth-challenged memoir about them is accurate, it appears that it’s the really most sincerely wealthy men who inhabit the House of Outrageous Fortune who are truly making out.

May 8th, 2015

Another Hedgie Clipped

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Hedge Clippers, a protest group, rallied outside Fifteen Central Park West today, reports ValueWalk. Though the building is full of targets for the anti-hedge-fund organization, this time, their target was the occupant of the tip-top building’s tip-top penthouse, Daniel Och of Och-Ziff. With $437 billion under the management of 15CPW dwellers, it will be a while before Hedge Clippers runs out of targets at the limestone fortress. Among the alternative investment firms with executives in residence ar Among them are Titan Capital, Canyon Capital, SAC Capital, CCMP Capital, Duquesne Capital, Joho Capital, Kingdon Capital, Knighthead Capital, Millennium Capital, Point State Capital, Vedanta Capital, Kilmer Capital Partners, Meridian
Capital Partners, Arts Capital Management, Goffe Capital Management, Davidson Kempner Capital Management, Och Ziff Capital Management, Capital Research and Management, Brevan Howard Asset Management, Citadel Asset Management, Marble Bar Asset Management, Visium Asset Management, Marathon Asset Management, Deerfield Management, RBC Wealth Management, Aurora Investment Management, Area Partners, Jana Partners, OpusPoint Partners, Realm Partners, D. E. Shaw, J. Goldman & Co., Urdang Real Estate Investment Advisors, Perella Weinberg, and JGP Gestão de Recursos of Rio de Janeiro. Note please that some are more egregious than others.

April 23rd, 2015

Munzer’s the Word at PEN Literary Gala

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Fifteen Central Park West penthouse dweller Margaret Munzer Loeb, whose husband Dan Loeb was long an icon of free expression on Internet stock-chat boards, albeit using sock-puppet monickers like the memorable Senor Pinche Wey, has landed in Richard Johnson‘s column today . This time, it’s not for minor acts of book-burning, like her husband and fellow hedgie Barry Rosenstein‘s attempt to disrupt last year’s launch party for a certain book on their building, but for a good cause: her support of PEN, which itself supports free expression for writers speaking truth to power. She’s a co-chair of its annual gala next month, where the French satirists of Charlie Hebdo are being honored. Which brings to mind the words of Tacitus: “It is the rare fortune of these days that one may think what one likes and say what one thinks.”

April 6th, 2015

Who REALLY Owns That $88 Million Penthouse?

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In recent days, as one generally-respected news source, Rolling Stone, has reminded us that respectability and trustworthiness are different things, two more news organizations, The New York Times and The New York Review of Books, have both stated as fact that the buyer of an $88 million penthouse at 15 Central Park West in 2011 was the then 22-year-old daughter of Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev. Both reports appear to be based on otherwise unsupported claims made, respectively, by one of Rybolovlev’s spokesmen to a Wall Street Journal reporter, and by one of his lawyers to a New York Times reporter. But those claims were made in the midst of contentious divorce litigation in which Rybolovlev’s estranged wife Elena Rybolovleva accused him of trying to hide his fortune from her through, among other things, purchases of luxury real estate. The Journal was told the 15CPW buy was made by a company “associated with” Rybolovlev’s elder daughter, Ekaterina Rybolovelva, the Times that the buyer was a trust “linked to” her. As those weasel words, now apparently forgotten, indicated, the real story is less clear but more interesting. It is told in House of Outrageous Fortune’s account of the limited liability company, Property NY 100-11 LLC, that actually owns the apartment. Note, too, that Rybolovlev’s wife and accuser subsequently won custody of their younger daughter and a settlement of more than $4.5 billion in what her lawyer called “the most expensive divorce in history.” Apparently, the Swiss court hearing her divorce found the former Mrs. Rybolovleva’s account somewhat credible.

March 24th, 2015

Russian TV rushes 15CPW


I’m on RT’s Boom Bu$t with Erin Ade today discussing Fifteen Central Park West, House of Outrageous Fortune, and who owns the outrageous eight- and nine-figuring condominiums popping up along the Billionaire’s Belt of 57th Street in Manhattan. The whole show is embedded above. To cut straight to the 15CPW segment click here.