The sale of a $125 million penthouse on the top three floors of The Pierre
In London this week, the Evening Standard announced that a 50,000 square foot Grade I listed Regency house, 18 Carlton House Terrace, SW1 has gone on the market at £250,000,000. If it achieves this figure, it will become the most expensive single home to be sold in the UK ever.
Meanwhile in New York, we recently reported that the world’s richest travel agent, Gilbert Haroche, was selling his 9,000 square foot 18th floor apartment in The Sherry-Netherland Hotel for $95,000,000 (£62,000,000). It has been removed from the website of realtors Brown Harris Stevens but remains on the hotel’s own “apartments for sale” webpages.
Now, another impressive Manhattan penthouse has been put up for sale at a price of $125,000,000 (£82,000,000). Though this is not nearly in the league of what has been achieved in London (an apartment in One Hyde Park sold for £136,000,000), The Penthouse at The Pierre is now the most expensive property on the market in New York City.
This penthouse, sometimes called “The Chateau in the Sky” after its crown of copper mansard roofing, covers the 41st, 42nd and 43rd floors of one of the Upper East Side’s best-known hotels.
Opened in 1930, The Pierre was built to the designs of the New York firm of Schultze and Weaver as a skyscraper that rises in a blond-brick shaft from a limestone-fronted Louis XVI base. It cost Charles Pierre Casalasco (1879 – 1934), a former employee of the restaurateur Louis Sherry, and the consortium he formed with Wall Street financiers such as Otto Kahn, Finley J. Shepherd, E. F. Hutton and Walter P. Chrysler some $15,000,000 to construct and fast became the toast of New York City. August Escoffier acted as guest chef at the hotel in the early years and a guide from the time stated that the hotel was:
“A monument of beauty and one of the most majestic structures in all New York. The Pierre caters to only those of refined tastes who can afford the best in the way of hotel luxury”.
The 714-room hotel’s management, though, did not weather the Great Depression well. Charles Pierre, as he had by then become, filed for bankruptcy in 1932 and after The Pierre was sold at auction in January 1933, the new management committee reappointed him as managing director.
Shortly before his death from an infection following appendicitis a year later in September 1934, Pierre lamented the passing of an age in the following statement:
“It will take years to discover whether society will find itself again. Society no longer exists. Today it’s How much money have you? Yesterday, it was Who are you?”
An obituary of Charles Pierre Casalasco described the hotel as being the realisation of the “dreams of his youth” and in his memory a plaque was installed inscribed with the maxim by which he worked:
“Be courteous. This is the most important rule of all”.
Four years later in 1938, the hotel created by the man The Times had described as the “prince of caterers” was sold to John Paul Getty for just $2,500,000. Amongst the many changes Getty orchestrated was to convert The Pierre into a cooperative building. To satisfy residents, the top floors, known as the “Pierre Roof”, which had been run variously as a supper club and used for debutante receptions, weddings and gala banquets, were closed to ensure new coop owners did not have to wait for elevators when the rooftop ballroom was in use.
For the next 30 years, this space which included a 3,500 square foot Grand Salon was simply used for storage but in 1990, the coop board sold the 41st and 42nd floors to an the recently widowed Australian media heiress Mary Fairfax for $12,000,000.
Lady Fairfax hired a team of designers including Balamotis McAlpine Associates and Frank Grill to create her a “palace in the sky”. An 18 foot high limestone fireplace was installed at one end of the 75 foot by 46 foot by 23 foot Grand Salon and a “monolithic” chandelier was brought from a demolished Melbourne theatre. It was here that this Polish born philanthropist entertained on a very grand scale until she sold The Penthouse at The Pierre for $21,500,000 in 1999.
The purchasers were Dr Martin Zweig (1942 – 2013), the stock market analyst who famously predicted the 1987 market crash three days before it happened, and his second wife, fellow “Wall Streeter” Barbara. Zweig. As The Pierre prevents financing, the couple paid for the property in cash. At the time, Matthew Dwyer, their agent, commented:
“They were looking around for a place to call home in the city and were just sort of surprised by it… They walked in, saw the totality of the space, and they fell in love with it… They saw it as a one-of-a-kind home that could be a lot of fun to live in, and a place that was not likely ever to be replicated”.
As well as enjoying magnificent views of Manhattan, Central Park, the Hudson and East Rivers, the couple used the space to display their collection of popular culture memorabilia. Amongst the items they owned were guitars and performance attire from Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Bruce Springsteen, the team jerseys of sports stars including Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky and the dress Marilyn Monroe famously sang “Happy Birthday, Mr President” to John F. Kennedy on 19th May 1962. As The Pierre allows pets, the Zweigs Yorkshire terrier, Murphy, also lived within the flat.
Dr and Mrs Zweig placed The Penthouse at The Pierre for sale in 2004 at a price of $70,000,000 after they had purchased another home on Fisher Island in Florida. By 2008, as it had failed to sell, the couple withdrew it from the market. Now, though, after Dr Zweig’s death at the age of 70 in February this year, it has been relisted at an astonishing figure of $125,000,000.
The agents for the sale, Sotheby’s, are bold in their description of the 16 room 12,000 square foot triplex. Of the Grand Salon, they state: “It is considered the most magnificent privately owned room in the world”. The vast property also features four terraces, nine bathrooms and a private internal elevator. The monthly maintenance bill, including electricity and two housekeeping staff, is the not insignificant sum of $47,000.
Other residents of the 75 apartments at The Pierre, which is currently managed by Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, have variously included Elizabeth Taylor, Yves Saint-Laurent, the fashion billionaire Tory Burch, the media tycoon Sumner Redstone and former Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed. All purchasers have to pass the stringent tests of the building’s cooperative board and part of the reason that the Zweig’s last attempt to sell the triplex failed was because two potential buyers were both declined by the committee.
If the $125,000,000 price tag is achieved, The Penthouse at The Pierre will set a record as the most expensive property sold in New York. Of how they came to the figure, Elizabeth Lee Sample of Sotheby’s commented:
“We based it on the highest-priced comparable co-ops and condos recently sold in New York City… It was hard to set a price because nothing really compares. I think of it, and I believe the buyer will see it, as a work of art”.
Given that this triplex needs some updating and that it failed to sell previously, this is a sale that we will watch with interest.
For more details about The Penthouse at The Pierre Hotel, contact Brenda S. Powers of Sotheby’s International Realty’s East Side Manhattan Brokerage on +1 212 606 7653.
For more details about The Pierre, 2 East 61st Street at Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10065, go to: http://www.tajhotels.com/Luxury/Grand-Palaces-And-Iconic-Hotels/The-Pierre-New-York/Overview.html