…for two reasons.
The first is that we were blocked from posting anything this morning for unknown reasons.
Secondly because it seems that the gossip “media” is all Bernie Madoff and Michael Jackson all the time this last week and while we are considering putting a cork in our big mouth about these two enigmatic men, we haven’t yet. So bear with us while we work out our own unnatural and unhealthy fascinations with these two troubled and unsettling souls.
Once upon a time there was a man with the unfortunate name of J. Ezra Merkin. While Merkin may be a perfectly benign (even banal) sounding surname to many, in Your Mama’s world a merkin is a wig for the hoo–hoo. That’s right, a wig for the hoo–hoo. Most people probably never knew such a doohickey actually existed, but yes chickens, a merkin is indeed a wig for a woman’s kitty and can be had for as little at forty bucks at the beauty supply.
But we digress. Although saddled with a name that has surely brought him a few moments of withering ridicule, our Mister Merkin prevailed over that particular patronymic misfortune and became a ferociously rich financier and high-livin’ hedge fund manager. In fact, Mister Merkin became so rich that in 1995 he paid billionaire biznessman Ron Perelman eleven million smackers for an 18-room doo–plex at 740 Park Avenue, one of the most restrictive, immoderately expensive and intriguing apartment buildings in all of Manhattan.
Like many hedge hogs and fat cat plutocrats, after making vast sums of money, Mister and Missus Merkin went on to amass a large modern art collection which eventually came to include gorgeously slender Giacometti sculptures and an almost unbelievable 12 Rothkos, constituting what some have said is the largest collection of the painter’s work held in private hands.
Then along came big bad Bernie Madoff. By most accounts Mister Merkin funneled a staggering $2.4 billion bucks into Bernie’s fraudulent enterprise all of which evaporated in Bernie Madoff’s sinister financial wake. Although it’s not yet been proven that Mister Merkin knew anything about Bernie’s elaborate misdeeds and Mister Merkin, naturally, denies any culpability or knowledge, he is none the less in the firing line of irate investors who claim he lied to them about who exactly was managing their money. In short, they say he told them he was managing the money when, they say, he was actually just handing the money over to Bernie’s sinking ship. A civil suit was filed against Mister Merkin in early April of 2009 by New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo who, as part of the ongoing investigation and civil suit, is “forcing” Mister Merkin to sell off his assets with proceeds going to investors whose money was turned over to Bernie Madoff.
Recent reports reveal that Mister Merkin is in the process of selling his art collection, including some or all of those pretty Rothkos that hang around his lavish spread at 740 Park Avenue. The NY Post reports that the sale involves, “10 to 15 pieces, mostly paintings by Rothko” for which an as yet unidentified buyer is said to be forking over a spine tingling $310,000,000. Your Mama likes to imagine that the buyer is one of Mister Merkin’s many bizness nemisi who will no doubt derive great pleasure from stripping Mister Merkin of the fruits and spoils of his labor.
However, as much as we like art and modern art in particular, it’s Mister Merkin’s ritzy real estate holdings that interest Your Mama the most. The NY Post recently reported that in addition to liquidating his artworks, Mister and Missus Merkin are “laying the groundwork” for selling their dee-luxe doo–plex digs at 740 Park Avenue. Of course, upon reading that Your Mama and every other floor plan slut began to sweat with anticipation waiting for the listing to hit the pipeline.
Some reports say the 6th and 7th floor doo–lex could fetch as much at $50,000,000 but that seems rather optimistic to Your Mama given that the most recent sales at 740 Park Avenue include Vera Wang’s $23,100,000 purchase of her parents’ pad in 2007 and the $27,500,000 sale of Edith Haupt’s 2 bedroom doo–plex on the 17th and 18th floors in 2006 to much maligned financier John Thain.
There is currently only one apartment at 740 on the open market and that is a 15-room, spread owned by oil heiress June Speight and her stockbroker huzband Randolph listed at $26,000,000. The 6,700 square foot doo–plex on the 4th and 5th floors has been on the open market for nearly a year and has already had $9,000,000 is price chops. Peter Huang’s 4th and 5th floor doo–plex (right next door to the Speights) was listed in July of 2008 for a blistering $38,000,000 but after 5 months it was de-listed amid rumors that it was in contract (it was not according to author Michael Gross who hawk watches and reports on all things 740 Park Avenue). As was widely reported in the New York papers, Courtney Sale Ross’ double-dooplex on the 12th and 13th floors (E. 71st Street entrance) may or may not be available for around $60,000,000…or $75,000,000 depending on who you ask.
At any rate, it seems crystal clear that Mister and Missus Merkin will be compelled to sell their 740 Park doo–plex along with whatever other hoity-toity assets Andy Cuomo says must be sold. What remains to be seen is when, for how much, and who will buy such a monstrous crib with a reported $15,000+ per month maintenance at a time when there are fewer and fewer buyers for such massive and massively priced apartments. We shall see children, we shall see. In the meantime be sure to ring Your Mama and let her know if you hear any dish on the doo–plex.
Records show that Mister and Missus Merkin also own a property in near Aspen, CO and a waterfront house on Bay Boulevard in Atlantic Beach that is surprisingly modest for a couple who shack up in one of the most expensive and exclusive buildings in Manhattan.
In other real estate related Madoff news…yesterday Bernie’s wife Ruth was officially booted from her East 63rd Street penthouse perch. The U.S. Marshall notified Ruthie of the seizure and she was expected to be “leaving the residence and surrendering all personal property.” Your Mama is no attorney so if any of you legal eagles know, what constitutes personal property? Could she take her expensive clothes? Her handbags? Jewelry? Shoes? Anything?
She still has $2.5 million that federal prosecutors have allowed her to keep but that is not protected from any civil suits that might be filed against her. The couple’s other properties–in Palm Beach, Montauk and the South of France–were already seized leaving Ruthie with no where to go unless one of her sons or remaining friends takes her in.