Bonfire of the Vanities at 15 Central Park West?

By Carol Eisenberg

September 19, 2008 at 7:00am

Pity the masters of the universe who sank millions into trophy properties just before their companies collapsed.

Apparently there are quite a few at 15 Central Park West, a spectacular, new condo development on Manhattan’s Upper West side.

Besides drawing entertainment biggies like Norman Lear and Sting, the limestone building with temperature-controlled wine cellars, full-time chef and a swimming pool has attracted financial kingpins such as American International Group COO Rodney O. Martin Jr., who spent $8.1 million on a three-bedroom unit in December - nine months before the insurance giant had to be bailed out by the federal goverment.

15 Central Park West, New York
15 Central Park West, New York

There are enough refugees from now-bankrupt Lehman Brothers, meanwhile, to hold an in-house grief-support group, among them:

  • Former Chief Financial Officer Erin Callan, who spent $6.5 million for a 31st-floor condo in mid-April – two months before getting canned as the stock price continued tanking. Callan now heads up Credit Suisse’s global hedge fund business.
  • Former managing mirector Raymond Mikulich, who paid $17.9 million for a four-bedroom and four-and-a-half-bath unit in February.
  • Former managing director Arthur Estey and his wife, Evelyne, who bought a $16.9 million four-bedroom apartment last November – one of the building’s largest non-penthouse condos with 4,589 square feet of space.
  • The head of Lehman’s European fixed-income sales, David Bizer, who paid $5.3 million for two bedrooms in December.

But it would be misleading to suggest it’s all doom and gloom at 15 CPW. For one thing, owners can still flip their units to make millions. NASCAR Chairman Brian France, for instance, just sold his 34th-floor condo for $18.8 million. That’s $8.2 million more than he paid three months ago.

And those looking for new work opportunities can network without having to ever set foot outside.

Neighbors who might be hot prospects include hedge fund manager Daniel S. Loeb of Third Point LLC, who made Alpha magazine’s list of top 50 hedge-fund earner and who spent $45 million for his penthouse. And there are at least a half dozen executives from investment house Goldman Sachs, including:

  • Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein who bought a $26 million penthouse duplex with his wife, Laura, in January.
  • Partner Donald C. Opatrny Jr., who bought a three-bedroom $11.6 million unit in January;
  • Managing director John E. Waldron, who bought his four-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath apartment for $8.7 million in December;
  • Partner Ashok Varadhan, and wife, Margaret, who paid $16 million on a four-bedroom unit in December;
  • Advisory director Alan A. Shuch who bought a three-bedroom unit for $8.5 million in January with Leslie Wohlman Himmel, a partner at real estate investment firm Himmel & Meringoff Properties.
  • Raj Sethi, a vice president for commodities derivatives trading, who paid $4.1 million for a two-bedroom unit in December;

And for those high-fliers agonizing over how it all went bust, there’s always the ability to shut out the world by going for a nice, long swim and then ringing up for an elegant dinner, made to order.

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