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Condo sellers asking $150 million for penthouse because in filthy rich New York, they can

Howard Halle

The rich! They're just like us, except with, you know, a lot more money. Lots more. But they still require roofs over their heads, even if only for two weeks a year, so they buy apartments. Interestingly, there are people happy to sell them what they need. Lately, this has meant turning former landmark buildings into condos, and selling the units for ginormous butt-loads of coin.

Case in point, the Sony Building at 550 Madison Avenue near East 57th Street. You may know it as the Chippendale building, a totem of Postmodern architecture designed by Philip Johnson. The 37-story tower, completed in 1984, once housed the offices of AT&T, and more recently the Japanese electronics purveyor. Now real estate giant The Chetrit Group is turning the high-rise into a bastion of ultra-luxury residencies, including a 21,504 square foot penthouse, taking up floors 33 to 35. Asking price: an eye-watering $150 million—a record-breaking amount for a New York City apartment. Stacked into dollar bills, that kind of cash would rise a little over 100 miles high. The Sony Building by comparison is 647 feet in height. Even if the math is off by a decimal point—certainly a possibility—the money would still reach pretty damn high.

The Sony Building condo conversion is following another one involving the iconic Woolworth Building. But its penthouse, which incorporates the tower's copper-sheated cupola, is going for a measly $110 million (chump change for a real playa). But whether your bankroll is simply fat or 500-pound-person-needing-a-forklift-to-move obese, the appeal of buying such places is understandable. Why settle for a shiny new purpose-built high rise when you can own a piece of skyline history? As to what sort of person is likely to drop $150 million on a crib, the New York Times recently ran a story on buyers of luxe domiciles in Manhattan, and they turn out to include a varied group of financial fraudsters, Russian kleptocrats, major polluters and one developer from India who skipped out on completing houses he'd pre-sold. So it's a good bet that the folks at 540 Madison will have plenty of intriguing  new neighbors to talk about. 


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