Billionaires Brawl Over NYC’s Most Expensive Townhouse

Billionaires usually get what they want. But when that something is a coveted piece of NYC real estate royalty, things get ugly.

By Jeff Vasishta December 2, 2016
Photo sourtesy of Brian Zak/NY Post

Ever wondered how some celebrities constantly seem to be dating other celebrities? Kardashians (take your pick), Swift, Lohan, Mayer? Keeping track of the celeb dating game can be tiring work. Well, it turns out that some houses can be just as flirtatious when it come to the rich and famous.

Take 19 East 64th Street. It’s set to be the most expensive townhouse ever sold in NYC with a truly bowel-loosening agreed price of $81 million. It’s been a toying temptress of a townhouse, coquettishly leading on men of wealth and taste and then discarding them in such a way that two-week Taylor could herself take notes.

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It’s currently owned by David Wildenstein, heir to his family’s art-dealing dynasty, as reported in the NY Post. It’s had a long time admirer in Ukranian-born billionaire, Len Blavatnik, owner of Warner Music and investor in Broadway hit “Hamilton”, who has been known to collect high priced real estate like Leonardo Di Flirtatious collects supermodels’ toothbrushes.

Two years ago he paid a record $80 million for a townhouse on Fifth Avenue. Blavatnik, it turns out, wasn’t the only mogul being seduced by the townhouse’s obvious charms. When another mystery buyer, a Chinese conglomerate, surfaced and upped the ante on the buying price, its head was turned—or rather owner Wildenstein’s pocket book was. Spurned suitor Blavatnik sued Wildenstein for reneging on a $79 million handshake deal.

“David Wildenstein acted in bad faith and knowingly misrepresented his capacity to consummate this transaction in order to selfishly serve his own interests,” a spokesman for one of Blavatnik’s companies, Access Industries, told The Post. “Mr. Wildenstein unambiguously promised that [Blavatnik] would be able to purchase the property” Oct. 6, after extensive negotiations, according to the suit filed by Access.”

Things started get shaky when Wildenstein, 36, pushed the closing date on the sale back to March 2017, claiming the delay was for tax reasons. Then, on October 13th Wildenstein claimed for the first time that he was not “authorized to sell the property, but had to obtain ‘board approval,’ ” the suit says.

Related: Justin Bieber Is Renting A $30 Million Mansion on London’s Billionaire’s Row

Blavatnik believes he was being used to bump up the sales price. With a net worth of $18.6 billion, according to Forbes, clearly, Blavatnik is not a man who like to be played games with. He sued to force a sale—or to be paid $10 million. The townhouse was listed after Blavatnik’s interest for $100 million.

The stunning home was designed by Gilded Age architect Horace Trumbauer and boasts 20-foot ceilings, a paneled elevator and third-floor salon imported from the 18th-century home of a Parisian prince. Sources told The Post it was built as an art gallery, not as a single family home and so only has one bathroom per floor. Blavanik was said to be keen on using the property as offices. No word what the new buyer has planned but no doubt the stylish limestone will be maintained in a manner to which it has been accustomed.

Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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