Nine million dollars may buy a magnificent mansion just about anywhere in the world, but it’s also the amount by which billionaire businessman Vincent Viola recently chopped the asking price for his unapologetically lavish, six-floor townhouse on New York City’s tony Upper East Side. The titanic spread was originally listed at an almighty $114 million before the price plummeted to $88 million, and the current, still heart-stopping asking price of $79 million means the property remains the most expensive townhouse available on the open market in Manhattan. Viola, former chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange and owner of the Florida Panthers professional ice hockey team, hopes to multiply his money several times on the historic home he scooped up about 15 years ago for exactly $20 million, according to property records.
Designed and built over a century ago by architect William Bosworth, the townhouse has undergone extensive renovations courtesy of Viola’s interior designer wife Teresa, whose firm, Maida Vale Designs, completely transformed the roughly 20,000-square-foot interior using France’s famously opulent Palace of Versailles as inspiration. The home now features a saltwater pool, a double-height library with painted ceilings as well as a two-story home theater with an Old Hollywood motif.
Physically and geographically speaking, the humongous home has a lot going for it. Marketing materials state the location “is an exceptional residential, tree-lined block without buses or dense traffic streaming in and out of Central Park”, and the townhouse’s 40-foot width makes it something of a rarity in Manhattan, as is the dining room that’s capable of hosting fifty for a sit down meal. Listing photos show an ornate interior that turns back the hands of time as the home wallows in its historic roots. While dark wood paneling and acres of shimmering gold leaf are no doubt exquisite, they’re also specific tastes to a certain type of buyer. Thus, those who prefer a more modern aesthetic will have to take the property through a comprehensive and costly round of renovations. Add the refurbishment costs to the already stratospheric price tag and the already small pool of potential buyers who can afford an almost $80 million house gets even smaller.
Vincent Viola is the founder and chairman of Virtu Financial and was President Trump’s first pick for secretary of the Army but withdrew his name apparently because of conflicts with his business ties. The son of a truck driver who grew up in Williamsburg and attended Brooklyn Tech, Viola has been involved in a series of high profile Brooklyn real estate deals in recent years. In 2017 he purchased a Jehovah’s Witness dormitory in Brooklyn Heights for $105 million with plans to turn the 237 dorm rooms into 101 apartments. Two years before that, in 2015, he spent $35 million on an apartment building owned by Brooklyn Law School.