New York City: World's Richest Man Buys Fifth Avenue Landmark

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim buys Manhattan mansionThe world's richest man, Mexican telecoms mogul Carlos Slim, is expanding his portfolio of New York City properties with the purchase of the landmark Duke-Semans Mansion on Fifth Avenue for $44 million, according to the The Wall Street Journal. It's a price considered something of a discount but still the fourth highest price ever paid for a Manhattan townhouse.

At just under 20,000 square feet, the home on 82nd Street is in spitting distance of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but is said to be in need of some repair and redecorating. Slim can afford to transform the place from fixer-upper to grand palace as Forbes estimates his net worth at $53.5 billion.

Surprisingly, however, Bloomberg quotes Slim's spokesman as saying that the businessman won't actually live there. The mansion, built in 1901 by tobacco magnate Benjamin Duke, is an investment, like another property he picked up last month: a $140-million office tower, also on Fifth. Slim is buying up bits of New York, including a chunk of The New York Times Co. and retailer Saks Inc.

Even if he doesn't move in and put up his own drapes, Slim is probably buying at a good time, savvy businessman that he is.
After a recessionary slump in the townhouse market, this is the first sale of more than $25 million since the fall of 2008 (if you don't count Madonna's three adjacent houses, which she bought last year for a total of $32.5 million).

The Duke place was put on the market in January for $50 million by owner Tamir Sapir, a former cabdriver turned real estate investor who had bought it in 2006 for $40 million, a city record at the time. Sapir reportedly wanted to unload it because his other investments had come under pressure.

Whatever Slim does with the home -- his main residence is a "modest" six-bedroom home in Mexico City -- if he waits a while he might be able to make some money on a resale. Prices are edging higher in this upper stratosphere of Manhattan real estate. The median price of 77 apartments, sold for $10 million or more in 2009, was $12.8 million. In 2010, 28 units have been sold so far for a median of $13.2 million, Bloomberg quoted Miller Samuel as saying.

Sadly for brokers at Brown Harris Stevens, who had listed the Duke mansion, Samir and Slim reportedly struck a private deal, leaving them out in the cold --- and out of a big fat commission.

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