"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
For 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.
Bernie Madoff feeder and hedge hog Ezra Merkin has dragged 740 Park back into the headlines, suing insurance company AIG over his allegation of $41 million in losses in a 2016 fire that drove many residents of the ritzy co-op out of their homes. I don’t think there are any winners in this story. Only losses all around.
June Dyson, 101, who lived at 740 Park Avenue for 41 years, died earlier this month. She was the widow of Charles Dyson, a public-school educated leveraged buyout specialist who put together a conglomerate in the 1950s and 1960s and then became a public official and philanthropist. He also served on the building’s board, and married June, who’d managed Rockefeller money, when she was 72 and he was 80, after each of their first spouses died. “I really have nothing to say to you,” she told me when I called and asked for an interview for the book. “We’re a quiet little building.” Her home, apartment 2/3C overlooking East 71st Street, cost $375,000 in 1979. If recent sales are any indication, her two stepsons can expect to sell it for about seventy times that sum.
With containment, isolation and quarantine ongoing in much of Ameeica, I’m shacking up with a diverse batch of good books in May. I abandoned Hilary Mantel‘s The Mirror & the Light despite having devoured the first two books in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, but loved Julian Barnes‘ The Man in the Red Coat. Now I’m onto Jesse Kornbluth‘s JFK and Mary Meyer: A Love Story, and I have Sam Wasson‘s The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood on deck. It’s not easy to read as I’m writing most days, at work on my own next book, about some very old and very prominent American families. But may I suggest one of the diversions illustrated here for you as I rush to get that done? You can order on each book’s page on mgross.com. 740 Park, in particular, seems to be pandemic-popular, its sales doubling in recent weeks. Could that be because Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin owns an apartment there? As it happens, it’s been in the market since 2018, despite its price dropping $5 million from the original $32.5 million ask. And now, it appears, the listing has expired. That’s understandable, perhaps, under the circumstances, though it’s tempting to think there’s some kind of stink attached to the place. #Staysafe #Stayinside and #read a book.
In the opening sentence of an article by a writer in a fashion magazine last month on fashion designer Vera Wang‘s years-long renovation of a Park Avenue duplex she inherited from her parents (address not identified), I’m referred to as follows: “THERE ARE 17 televisions in Vera Wang’s palatial Manhattan residence in a 1929 Art Deco building so famous that someone wrote a whole book about it.” Just for the record, the building and the book are both called 740 Park, and Wang’s residence there is noted on page 472 (i.e. it’s not a secret). The book was published in 2005, became a New York Times bestseller, and remains in print fifteen years later. Buy it by clicking any of the hot links. If you want to read the article, I imagine someone can tell you where to find it.
My book 740 Park got name-checked in an article on the Koch family’s real estate holdings the Wall Steet Journal last week. You can read it here.The late David Koch is pictured with the late Frank Lautenberg.
Unreal Estate: Money, Ambition, and The Lust For Land in Los Angeles, the second book in my luxury real estate trilogy, is finally available again, exclusively as an e-book. Said the Los Angeles Times: “Paragraphs of jaw-dropping details about a type of extravagance that might have been scorned even by the very wealthy on the Titanic. But [Unreal Estate] also leaves the reader with a sense of history….[It’s] what would happen if Us Weekly and Architectural Digest had a love child that was much smarter than either. The book provides a panorama of what was going on inside some of the most frivolous, gated houses on a hill that have ever existed.”
Today’s New York Times reviews Aaron Glantz‘s Homewreckers, on the real estate meltdown that sparked the Great Recession. The Times notes that many of the perpetrators in the book’s pages live under the same Park Avenue roof, but doesn’t reveal the address, and names only one of them. That’s Steven Mnuchin, now Secretary of the Treasury, and one of the current administration’s few surviving Original Cheerleaders. The building is 740 Park of course, and John Thain, Steve Schwarzman (with Mnuchin, O.C. Wilbur Ross, and anther guy on the book’s jacket), as well as former resident Ronald O. Perelman, are all covered. Thanks to Glantz for citing my book on the building, still in print–and relevant–thirteen years after it was first published.
I’m happy to reveal that Unreal Estate, my social/real estate history of the richest communities in Los Angeles, will shortly be re-published, exclusively as an e-book, after almost seven years out of print. “Great Hollywood houses, great Hollywood tragedies, great book,” said The Chicago Tribune. I’ll post a link for purchase as soon as it’s available.