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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Russian financier Andrey Vavilov sells his penthouse in Time Warner Center,

Sunday, almost all newspaper have exclusive space for real estate – people would scour through them looking for an investment opportunity …..and this news is not for those of us who would buy a flat as a lifetime investment, putting all our money, take loan and suffer throughout struggling to pay EMI, especially when the interest rate suddenly soars [in a floating basis]
Chennai looks different at parts – from North Madras to South 0r … farther still, to Rajiv Gandhi Salai (popularly Old Mahabalipuram Road) – at OMR the toll road is ever busy with spanky cars and AC volvo buses.  You see construction activity – some projects developing at frenzied pace, some slowly.  Real estate has pushed the rates of lands and perhaps everything including food  is comparatively costly in this 20 km+  stretch from Madhya Kailash junction to Siruseri, motivated by IT development.  Some realtors however say that happy days are over and that  “OMR’s glorious period was between 2001 and 2008.” – still people with bags are money are thinking of buying land or least a flat which itself costs a crore and a half these days !!
Way back in Sept 2008 NY Post carried an article -  Low ceilings;  Columns in the living room; . Drainage grates outside the windows. – don’t let your imagination ruin thinking it to be somewhere in suburb of Chennai, that actually is about a million dollar Plaza penthouses bought by Russian hedge-fund manager Andrei Vavilov, who was reported as stating that s the developer promised him the epitome of luxury and then handed over an “attic-like space.”  There reportedly was a $31 million suit, on the  purchase – which would have represented the second-highest amount for a residential sale in New York City history – as the result of a bait-and-switch scam. Unlike The Plaza hotel of the children’s story “Eloise,” where rooms “embodied the height of elegance and sophistication, the same cannot be said of the penthouses,” said  the lawyer  who filed the suit  in Manhattan Supreme Court. Vavilov’s wife, Russian actress Maryana Tsaregradskaya,  reportedly “burst into tears” when she first saw the finished unit.

Read elsewhere of a news that Abu Dhabi Investment Authority has announced its plan to purchase the Time Warner Center. The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) is a sovereign wealth fund owned by Emirate of Abu Dhabi (in United Arab Emirates) founded for the purpose of investing funds on behalf of the Government of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. It manages the emirate’s excess oil reserves, estimated to be as much as $500 billion. Its portfolio grows at an annual rate of about 10% compounded.  The report suggested that Abu Dhabi Investment is in the final stages of the purchase deal which is worth USD1.3 billion.

The subject matter – ‘ Time Warner Center’  is a twin-tower building  developed by AREA Property Partners (formerly known as Apollo Real Estate Advisors) and The Related Companies in New York City. Its design, by David Childs and Mustafa Kemal Abadan of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill,  consists of two 750 ft (229 m) twin towers bridged by a multi-story atrium containing upscale retail shops. Construction began in November 2000, following the demolition of the New York Coliseum, and a topping-out ceremony was held in Feb, 2003. The property had the highest-listed market value in New York City, $1.1 billion, in 2006.  Originally constructed as the AOL Time Warner Center, the building encircles the western side of Columbus Circle and straddles the border between Midtown and the Upper West Side. The total floor area of 260,000 square metres (2,800,000 sq ft) is divided between offices (notably the offices of Time Warner Inc. and an R&D Center for VMware), residential condominiums, and the Mandarin Oriental, New York hotel. The Shops at Columbus Circle is an upscale shopping mall located in a curving arcade at the base of the building, with a large Whole Foods Market grocery store in the basement.

In the decade and a half since Mr. Putin came to power, Russians have socked away hundreds of billions of dollars overseas. Even as the Kremlin was promoting what it called a “deoffshorization” campaign to repatriate Russian capital, an estimated $150 billion left the country  !  For many wealthy Russians, a New York condo serves as a double parachute — a safe-deposit box of sorts, and a soft landing spot should the climate back home turn inhospitable or dangerous — even if that apartment sits dark and vacant for most of the year. In the process, the Russians, while not quite as ubiquitous as they are in, say, some of the tonier districts of London, have become the face of a sharpening debate about the impact of New York’s pied-à-terre economy.

The archetype of the condo boom Time Warner Center was successfully marketed  during the real estate malaise that followed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Russians too came buying.  Many of the apartments were purchased through shell companies, a New York Times investigation identified at least 20 that have been owned by Russians or citizens of other former Soviet republics who, in all, invested more than $200 million in Time Warner Center condos.

Now NY Times reports that the  Russian financier Andrey Vavilov sold his full-floor penthouse on the 78th floor of the south tower of the Time Warner Center, which he bought through a separate company six years ago, to a mystery buyer for $50,917,500  [Rs.325 crores @ 63.80]— a transaction that yielded a tidy profit, though far less than he initially planned, and was the most expensive sale of the week, according to city records.  Mr. Vavilov, 54, who served as the deputy finance minister during the presidency of Boris N. Yeltsin and made a fortune when the oil company he acquired was taken over by a state-controlled enterprise in 2003, had bought the 8,274-square-foot apartment, PH78, at 25 Columbus Circle, for $37.5 million in June 2009. He also purchased a storage unit on the second floor, for $82,500, which he sold for the same amount.

Foreign money had fuelled a billionaires row of residential buildings overlooking Central Park, including the Plaza, left, and the Time Warner Center in the background.  The sale also represented the highest price ever paid for a condo at Time Warner, according to an  chief executive of CityRealty, which tracks condominium and co-op sales. “The previous record was the same apartment six years ago,” he is reported as saying.
The residence, which has six bedrooms and eight and a half baths, along with stellar views of Central Park, the Hudson River and various city landmarks, is near the pinnacle of Time Warner’s residences at One Central Park, which has 133 units. Among its 14 rooms are a private foyer, a 42-by-26-foot living room, library and media room, all facing the park. The enormous master bedroom suite, also with park vistas, includes dual bathrooms, a study and a 25-by-26-foot dressing room.

Mr. Vavilov is one of the many wealthy Russians to park their money in Manhattan luxury real estate, and in particular, the Time Warner Center, with its opulent residences, designer shops and fancy restaurants, according to a series of articles in February in The New York Times that looked at the growing use of limited liability companies in real estate transactions. Some have made their properties pieds-à-terre; others barely, if at all, set foot inside. After Vavilov sued the developer, the Elad Group, over fraud and breach of contract claims; Elad countersued. A settlement was reached in January 2009.

The report adds that It’s uncertain how Mr. Vavilov and his wife, the actress Mariana Tsaregradskaya, had planned to use the Time Warner apartment, which has total monthly carrying costs of $37,305. After extensive renovations and a design makeover from Tony Ingrao, it was placed back on the market in July 2013 for $75 million, and with no takers, removed and then re-listed in May 2014 for $68 million, according to StreetEasy.   Now comes the news of its sale @ $50,917,500  [Rs.325 crores @ 63.80],   The week’s runner-up, at $30,000,000, was a townhouse at 13 East 75th Street, city records show, also with a possible Russian connection.

If You and Me are reading this, it is only of passing interest, as still I struggle to convert million as 10 lakhs and count how many zeroes to put for a crore !! – there are people [the Indian middle class] who are always worried of their future, save in banks and post offices, take turn to miss AC buses intending to save some money on travel ….and there are the uber rich ! – in India and elsewhere.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
2nd Aug 2015.


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