SELLER: Carlos Slim Helú
LOCATION: New York City, NY
SIZE: (approx.) 20,000 square feet, 10 bedrooms, 10+ bathrooms
YOUR MAMA’S NOTES: If, over the last seven or eight years we’ve slung real estate dirt about the rich and/or famous, Your Mama has told the children once we’ve told y’all 49,000 times that one of the many ways the world’s superrich add to their super-sized fortunes is to buy extraordinarily expensive — and arguably already exuberantly over-inflated — residential real estate, hang on to it for a few years and then sell it — or, at least, try to sell it — it at a profit that that mere pecuniary mortals might easily find astonishing and, well, financially obscene.
Let’s use as an example Carlos Slim Helú, a Mexican telecommunications tycoon with a net worth of more than $77 billion by Forbes’ current estimation. As a digitally connected and information consuming society that’s ever more obsessed with wealth and the wealthy, we’ve become used to and even somewhat jaded to the staggering magnitude of such massive numbers. So, let’s take a quick minute, children, to consider just how much dinero $77 billion dollars really is. It’s not quite the Gross National Product (GDP) of Jordan and a tetch more than the GDP of Panama; Mister Slim could, if he were so inclined and such a thing were possible, buy the legendary Olympic Tower complex in Midtown Manhattan — which just traded hands for a little more than a billion bucks — 77 times over. With a reported combined value of $5.5 billion, Mister Slim’s fat fortune could buy the world’s 15 most expensive yachts 18 times over or he could procure 481 F-35 fighter jets at the going rate of $160 million apiece. According to a few quick clicks of the well-worn beads of our bejeweled abacus, the big-time philanthropist and global business power player could buy 187,804 of his best friends a 2015 Rolls Royce Phantom that retail at a minimum of $410,000 each or, at $62,455 per year in tuition and other fees, provide 308,222 kids with a four-year undergraduate education at Stanford.
Anyhoodles, poodles, despite his virtually bottomless and still growing bank accounts Mister Slim is often reported in the business press to drive his own car and live fairly modestly in Mexico City. That is, of course, if what passes for modesty in the multi-billionaire milieu is a six bedroom and eight bathroom villa in the high-toned Loma de Chapultapec neighborhood and a private art collection that’s reportedly worth upwards of three-quarters of a billion bucks and largely housed in a striking, aluminum tile clad and publicly accessible Mexico City museum he financed, generously endowed and named after his late wife. However, not quite five years ago he clearly came down with a serious hankering for a bit of residential immodesty and was revealed as the deep-pocketed buyer who paid Russian-born cab driver turned New York City real estate magnate Tamir Sapir $44 million for the epic and utterly sumptuous Duke-Semans mansion on New York City’s ritzy Upper East Side. So the story goes, Señor Slim, now in his mid-70s, planned to use the gargantuan mansion as a part-time residence, an immense and unabashedly palatial pied-a-terre to hang his custom-made Brioni suits when in town for business meetings and charity events.
The landmarked, eight-floor Beaux-Arts style pile, one of the few single-family townhouses that remain along famed Fifth Avenue, was designed by the architects at the white-shoe firm Welch, Smith & Provot and built — on spec, mind y’all — at the turn of the 20th century. The freshly built mansion was first purchased by tobacco, textile and energy plutocrat Benjamin N. Duke who sold it to his brother, James Duke, in 1907. Members and heirs of the sprawling and spectacularly rich Duke family owned the property until 2006 when it was sold for $40 million to the abovementioned and recently deceased Mister Sapir.
Fast forward to 2015 and, as has been reported in all the New York City property gossip columns, the Duke-Semans mansion is back up for sale on the open market with a sky-high and publicity generating $80 million price tag. It’s doesn’t take a mathematics genius to see the $36 million uptick in price/suggested value is almost double what Mister Slim paid for the place. We’ll leave it to the experts and the marketplace to decide if the value of trophy residences in Manhattan such as the Duke-Semans mansion has just about doubled over the last five years but what we can say with some certainty is that Mister Slim needs another $36 million dollars — less carrying costs, upkeep, improvements and real estate fees — like he needs 36 arms and 36 legs.
The ornamented and mansard-roofed residence presides over a busy corner directly across the street from the Metropolitan Museum of Art with 27-feet of Fifth Avenue frontage and a 100 foot depth along East 82nd Street where a wrought iron and glass canopy marks the main entrance. A rusticated limestone base is topped by a limestone quoined red brick façade with sculpted limestone window surrounds, stone balustrades and wrought iron window railings and an extravagantly articulated cornice. Current listing details and other online resources show the approximately 20,000 square foot residence encompasses 25 rooms with 8 bedrooms, 10 full and as many as 10 half bathrooms and 11 fireplaces. Property taxes ring up to just over $200,000 per annum, an outright fortune to most people but unquestionably a meaningless fraction of Mister Slim’s annual income. The interior spaces, which are not included with any of the publicly accessible online marketing materials we peeped, are described as bounteously opulent with monumentally high ceilings, hand-carved boiserie, trompe l’oeil accents, gold-leaf accented fixtures and moldings and intricate plaster friezes. A “sweeping” staircase with over-sized windowed landings flanks luxuriously scaled public rooms on the lower levels and links the mansion’s first five stories while the uppermost floors are accessed by a separate, dramatically sky-lit stairway.
Although we’d bet both our long-bodied bitches, Linda and Beverly, that Mister Slim spared no expense as regards to the mansion’s no-doubt excessive and expensive maintenance, digital marketing materials state that the Duke-Semans mansion is a “rare opportunity to own one of New York’s most significant properties and is ready to be modernized by your architect or designer.” That would certainly suggest — at least to this possibly overly assumptive property gossip — that this $80 million house could use a bit of a spruce up. It seems silly and almost surreal that an $80 million house would need anything but the floors polished or windows washed but these are some seriously strange real estate times, aren’t they children?
Listing photos: Sotheby’s International Realty