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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."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%.

May 13th, 2016

It isn’t only luxury condos crashing: Hedgies are dropping, too

Loeb Xmas001
Today’s New York Times highlights one reason why Manhattan’s high-end condo market is collapsing, as Extell founder Gary Barnett admitted yesterday. James B. Stewart writes that investments in hedge funds, the financial high fliers that funded much of the condo boom, are dropping as dramatically as construction cranes. Stewart quotes Daniel Loeb, founder of the Third Point hedge fund and owner of one of the largest penthouses at uber-condo Fifteen Central Park West (shown with his wife Margaret Munzer Loeb on the front of one of their elaborate Christmas cards): “There is no doubt that we are in the first innings of a washout in hedge funds.” Loeb’s funds finished in the red in 2015, according to Institutional Investor’s Alpha Magazine, which just published its annual list of top-performing hedgies. Among Gripepad’s favorites who made the list this year, 740 Park’s Israel “Izzy” Englander (who earned $1.15 billion) and Fifteen CPW’s Dan Och.

May 12th, 2016

The Collapse of the Crane King

Real-Estate-Boom-and-Bust-Taking-a-Loss-on-a-CondoWhat a shame the Wall Street Journal is hidden behind a firewall, so Extell developer Gary Barnett‘s belated acknowledgment yesterday of the collapse of Manhattan’s high-end condo market mostly passed unnoticed. Let’s rectify that. As noted here long ago, while big building boosters were still singing its praises, sales stalled at Barnett’s ugly One57 tower (referred to in these parts as the Blue Penis). More than a fifth of the building’s apartments have failed to sell and Extell has marked down its potential sellout value by $162 million–enough to buy a record setting condo, one might add. “There’s a lot of stuff that is chasing what happened three years ago or four years ago when there was a boom,” Barnett told the WSJ. “They’re late to the party and the party is ending.” The party, one should note, began with the record-setting 15 Central Park West, the first and most successful of the Billionaire’s Belt condominiums. WSJ goes on to mention a number of other developments “in the blocks around One57” that might be negatively affected by what Barnett terms a “temporary imbalance” in the Manhattan real estate market (i.e. too many high end condos and not enough stupid-money buyers), but not Extell’s so-called Nordstrom tower, just a hop, skip and jump west on Fifty-seventh Street. Perhaps they are rewarding Barnett for his burst of candor. “The good news is,” he concludes, “we’re not going to see many more projects that are going to be built.”

April 4th, 2016

Panama Papers target 15CPW’s Condo King Rybolovlev

15 weill penthouse
Today’s Irish Times delves into the leak of “more than 11 million documents, dating from 1977 to December 2015, [that] show the inner workings of Mossack Fonseca, a global law firm based in Panama that helps customers create offshore shelters.” One of those customers is Dmitry Rybolovlev, purchaser (through an LLC, as first revealed in House of Outrageous Fortune) of the once record-setting $88 million penthouse at Fifteen Central Park West (see floor plan). Rybolovlev’s story “illustrates the lengths that spouses, their lawyers and professional trackers must go in search of wealth stashed offshore in complex networks of companies and trusts,” the paper says.

March 3rd, 2016

The Fed: Manhattan luxe real estate market squirms like a slug

The Federal Reserve Bank says the market for high end real estate in the nation’s hottest market “has been particularly sluggish, reflecting excess supply” since the beginning of the year. You read it here first. Business insider reports the finding and uses Arthur and Will Lie Zeckendorf‘s 15 Central Park West as a symbol of the high water mark, and its slower-selling sibling 50 United Nations Plaza as a marker for today. Sounds like the stunning 50 UN might be a place to park smart money with nearly two-thirds of the apartments sold at discounts as high as sixteen percent.

January 13th, 2016

Treasury Dept. will follow in footsteps of House of Outrageous Fortune

The United States Department of the Treasury announced today that it will begin to do broadly just what the New York Times bestselling House of Outrageous Fortune did for one prominent building, 15 Central Park West, back in 2014, and “identify the natural persons behind companies used to pay ‘all cash’ for high-end residential real estate in the Borough of Manhattan in New York City, New York.” The government press release goes on to say that “FinCEN [The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network] is concerned that all-cash purchases – i.e., those without bank financing – may be conducted by individuals attempting to hide their assets and identity by purchasing residential properties through limited liability companies or other opaque structures. To enhance availability of information pertinent to mitigating this potential money laundering vulnerability, FinCEN will require certain title insurance companies to identify and report the true beneficial owner behind a legal entity involved in certain high-end residential real estate transactions.” Foreign buyers of Billionaire’s Belt condominiums might want to wait a few months to close their purchases. The temporary program expires in August.

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

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

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

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)

Me and the Zeckendorfs_Craig_Barritt_250
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)