Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Portrait of a Park Avenue Banker Stuck on the Real Estate Ropes

As much as we don't like seeing anyone in a real estate pickle and try as we might, Your Mama has a tough time feeling any real sympathy–or empathy–for all the wizards of Wall Street who made mountains of money with wildly complicated and high risk financial instruments who are now having to cope with reduced circumstances due to the unraveling and implosion of the very same funky financial instruments that made them exceedingly wealthy.

With that in mind, today we're going to participate in a little real estate schadenfreude at the expense of a New York City based banker named Ramesh Singh who once upon a time not so long ago was sitting pretty at the tippy-top of Wall Street's financial heap but is now deeply mired in a Park Avenue property melodrama that will cost him millions when all is said and done.

For many years, our Mister Singh made beau coup bucks as a bigwig at Swiss banking juggernaut UBS where he last headed up the global operations of UBS's real estate and securitized products divisions. The bundled debt obligations known as mortgage backed securities is just one of the new-fangled financial instruments Mister Singh and his minions at UBS used for many years to great monetary gain but in the end aided in the near collapse of credit markets and economies around the world.

In November of 2008, just a few short weeks after UBS took more than $46,000,000,000 in sub-prime write downs and other losses, Mister Singh left his job. A internal UBS memo stated Mister Singh was leaving in order to spend more time with his family and pursue other career opportunities. Oh pleeze. Like we don't know what "pursue other career opportunities" really means. Mister Singh has not been publicly pilloried like Dick Fuld from Lehman Brothers or Bear Stearns' Jimmy Cayne who was reportedly playing Bridge when his company went belly up. However, as a result of being one of the many bakers of Wall Street's poison pie, Mister Singh isn't exactly one of Joe Public's favorite people right now which is why at least some of the children will delight in his current real estate woes.

Mister Singh's real estate troubles started way back in 2004 when he and his wife Farida Khan made the fateful decision to sell their co-operative apartment at 941 Park Avenue in New York City. Although our high society gal pal The Social Butterfly insists 941 Park Avenue is, "Not for anyone important," records show that in September of 2004 the Singhs received an important $6,155,000 for their doo-plex domicile which occupied portions of the 15th and 16th floors.

From 941 Park Avenue, the couple schlepped their furniture, jewelry, art and cash stash just 4 blocks south where property records reveal that in August of 2004 they paid $6,876,250 for a full floor co-operative apartment on the fifth floor of 860 Park Avenue. Listing information, property records and the floor plan (below) reveal that the Singh's new nest at 860 measures 4,225 square feet and includes 3 large bedrooms and 2 smaller sleeping chambers all of which claim private poopers. The corner living room stretches to 28-feet with a fireplace and windows looking down Park Avenue. There's also a square, or square-ish, dining room and a modestly sized library with floor to ceiling book shelves and a second fireplace. Other features include a private elevator landing, a generous but not baronial entrance gallery with guest terlit, 15 closets including one ceder-lined dealywop plus a dressing room attached to one of the smaller bedrooms, a private laundry room, an eat in kitchen and small adjacent office which leads to the service entrance.
The Singh's stay at 860 Park Avenue was short lived. In April of 2007, the couple went house hunting and signed contracts to purchase two posh pads (one on top of the other) a few blocks south at 823 Park Avenue, a pretty if undistinguished pre-war building undergoing a complete over-haul and being sold off as high-priced condominiums. This purchase, my puppies, was the Singh's fatal real estate error as y'all will soon see.

In May of 2007, shortly after the Singhs went to contract for their apartment at 823 Park Avenue, they listed their full floor cooperative unit at 860 Park Avenue with an asking price of $13,400,000, roughly twice what they paid. Records we peeped and perused on the always entertaining and informative StreetEasy indicate that just a few months later their apartment at 860 Park Avenue went to contract. However, before the Singhs could pop a celebration cork on a $3000 bottle of sham-pag-nee, the deal withered and died and the apartment was taken off the market.

The Singh spread at 860 Park was re-listed in November of 2007 at the original asking price of $13,400,000 where it languished un-wanted. In late February of 2008, the asking price was chopped to $12,750,000. Another $800,000 reduction came just two weeks later and then in late May of 2008 another $955,000 was hacked off the asking price bringing it to $10,995,000.

In July of 2008, after a more than a year on the market, nearly $2,500,000 in price chops and completing the toe curling $20,000,000 purchase of their new digs at 823 Park Avenue, Your Mama imagines the Singhs were all kinds of aggro. The apartment at 860 was removed from the market in July of 2008 and re-listed in early October with a different real estate agent and a new (much lower) asking price of $9,500,000. According to Streeteasy, it wasn't long before a deal was brokered with a bargain hunting buyer who records show closed on the Singh spread at 860 Park Avenue in late February of 2009 for...are you ready kids...drum roll please...seven million dollars. That's right. Seven. Million. Dollars. Can the children say, "Ouch?"

It gets worse. Oh yes, it gets much worse and more complicated so pay attention puppies.

Property records show that although the Singhs signed contracts for their colossal new crib at 823 Park Avenue in April of 2007, they did not close on the sprawling unit(s) until the end of June in 2008. Records show the high-flying couple forked over $20,000,000 for a single story ground floor maisonette unit and the full floor simplex unit just above it for a combined 7,234 square feet of Park Avenue duplexity (below).

However, just six weeks later and perhaps due to the fact that their apartment at 860 Park Avenue had yet to sell after more than a year on the market, Mister and Missus Singh had a real estate change of heart and hoisted their new, 15-room condominium at 823 Park Avenue back on the market with an asking price of $24,750,000. Your Mama is not sure who advised the Singhs that it was wise to re-list the apartment(s) just six weeks after closing with a flabbergasting $4,750,000 price increase, but they did.

Even as the Singh spread at 823 Park Avenue was on the market, listing information and the floor plan indicate the two apartments were combined into a rambling and poorly resolved doo-plex connected by a swooping staircase tucked back into an odd corner of the bedroom wings. The primary living spaces, located on the second floor of the combined unit, include a 32-foot long living room and a cozy corner library that both face Park Avenue, a dining room and eat in kitchen with bizarre blue counter tops.

There are 4 principal bedrooms and 2 smaller bedrooms all with private poopers, a guest suite comprised of a sitting room, bedroom and terlit room carved out of what was originally the living room and library of the maisonette unit, and a single staff room that appears to share a pooper with one of the larger bedrooms on the second floor, a situation our very private and notoriously imperious house gurl Svetlana would not stand for.

The chopped up ground floor also includes an over-sized second foyer that opens directly into the Greek Revival style building lobby, a small, impractically located study that must be passed through to get to the guest quarters, and an entertaining kitchen slammed between two bedrooms which opens to the 300 square foot terrace.

It may come as no surprise to any of the children that after six months on the market, the asking price of the Singh's doo-lex digs at 823 Park Avenue had been slashed to $19,950,000. That would be fifty thousand bucks less than they paid, a bitter pill to swallow for sure. Then, on the very same February day in 2009 on which they closed on the bargain basement sale of their apartment at 860 Park Avenue, the doo-plex at 823 Park Avenue was removed from the open market.

The apartment did not stay gone for long. Just six weeks later, in mid-March of 2009 Mister and Missus Singh's doo-plex at 823 Park Avenue reappeared on the market with a new listing agent and a shocking new asking price of $16,750,000 which our bejeweled abacus reveals is a staggering $3,250,000 less than the couple paid for the place a just year before. But hold on to your britches children because it gets even more chilling to the bone. On the 14th of May, according to the peeps at StreetEasy, the asking price was once again lowered. But children, it was not just pruned or pared, it was sliced, diced, hacked, chopped, whacked, slashed, lopped and hewn in one stupefying $2,250,000 swoop bringing it to its current asking price of $14,500,000.

What this means for Mister and Missus Singh, as all you mathematics whizzes already know, is that even in the unlikely event they find someone willing to fork over the full $14,500,000 asking price, they'll still lose a hair raising $5,500,000 (plus considerable renovation costs) on their Park Avenue dream house turned Nightmare on Park Avenue.

A quick spin through property records reveals that Mister and Missus Singh also own a house at on Dune Road in Westhampton Beach which the bought in November of 2001 for $3,730,000. Records show the couple also own a 3 bedroom and 3.5 bathroom condo in Aventura, FL which they picked up in March of 2004 for $1,450,000. No word on whether these properties will soon be for sale or not but Your Mama would not bet our long bodied bitches they are long for the Singh's real estate portfolio.

Mister Singh is hardly the only Wall Street heavy weight dealing with "reduced circumstances" who is looking to scare up some cash and lighten his real estate load. Max Abelson at the NY Observer reported today in his Manhattan Transfers column that Lehman Brothers' demonized former CEO Dick Fuld has quietly floated his 16-room, 6,200 square foot cooperative apartment at 640 Park Avenue on the market with a blistering asking price of $32,000,000. Soon after the Fulds learned the Mister would be fired from Lehman's without severance, Mrs. Fuld (in)famously sold off a slew of postwar drawings and Christie's which put more than a few million dollars of runaround money into her Birkin Bag. Even more whackadoodle is that in December of 2008, Mrs. Fuld was widely reported to have requested a plain bag to tote home newly purchased items from the Hermes shop on Madison Avenue. She did this, we assume, so that in the after math of the economic meltdown which her dear huzband helped to create she would not be seen or photographed conspicuously consuming this and thats from one of the pricest boo-teeks in all of Manhattan. Of course, the issue Mrs. Fuld grappled with apparently wasn't whether to conspicuously consume or not, but rather how to appear not be be a conspicuous consumer. Jeezis.

Also in a hurry to unload some real estate is former Lehman Brothers executive Joe Gregory who listed his 8 bedroom and 8.5 bathroom ocean front getaway in Bridgehampton, NY in September of 2008 with an asking price of $32,500,000, a number that was recently reduced to a still immodest $27,900,000

Another financier and former Lehman Brothers executive by the name of Jack L. Rivkin recently listed his Hamptons house for sale with an asking price of $31,000,000. Mister Rivkin's 1.86 acre estate on Amagansett's hoity toity Further Lane includes a 7,000 square foot house with 6 bedrooms, 7.5 bathrooms, three fireplaces, a swimming pool and pool house, gym, a bowling alley (WHAT?) and a 365 year old barn brought over from England.

While so many houses in the Hamptons are being sold at rock-bottom prices, it's a bit unnerving for Your Mama to see such unrealistic asking prices on properties owned by folks who clearly need to sell them because, let's be honest, if these guys did not need to sell these houses, surely they would not be trying to sell them in the quicksand that is the current Hamptons real estate market. The desperation is getting ugly. Stay tuned children, because it's probably going to get worse before it gets better.

27 comments:

Eddie in PDX said...

Mama, what a great article. And you're right, I don't feel sorry for them.

thevinylvillage said...

I cant believe that for that many million dollars, you get an 8 x 9 "bedroom".

Mama, you are right about the duplex floor plan--what a bastardized combination of two units. One would have to dump in a few million just to get an arrangement that made some kind of sense.

Anonymous said...

excellent read mama!

Rich said...

Any portion of a million dollars is far more than any of these twits deserves. I think a nice cardboard box would be appropriate housing for them all.

pch said...

What a great term, "duplexity."

Venice4504 said...

Bravo Mama! You got me all the way through my lunch time :)

StPaulSnowman said...
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Grrrowler said...

Wow, great write-up! Thanks for putting this together!

Now, my big question is about Mr. Singh. If he can't even figure out how to buy and sell real estate without losing millions of dollars in the process, why should anyone trust him to invest/protect their money in his investments and bank? If he's unable to keep money in his own pocket, how good will he be at keeping money in the pockets of other people?

StPaulSnowman said...

I hope these two still have enough money left to buy a Chevrolet full of Prilosec 'cause they gunna need it. Mama........thanks for giving us this schadenfreude orgasm.....it was a great effort!

Anonymous said...

Hey Mama, I looked at the 11th floor of 823 Park last August but it has since been sold. The apartments in that building are beautiful BUT the bedrooms are so small! I would not want to live on the ground floor or second floor of this building, it's a somewhat noisy corner to be that low. 11th floor was fine. If you want anymore info about 823, let me know.

Anonymous said...

What an excellent read, thank you Mama!! You really make your Chilren really wanna do their homework too! What a chopped up mess that duplex thingy is, who would even attempt to make head nor hair of it.
Ahh the greedy they are a falling.

The Polished Pebble said...

LOve...loVE..lOvE..it. Any jerk who puts a property back on the market at a 25% increase over what they paid for it less than 6 months before is...well..a jerk!

too funny, keep up the good deeds.

Anonymous said...

I also do NOT feel sorry for any of them--they are finally getting somewhat of what they deserve. OMG, the floor plan of the duplex is beyond ridiculous!!! This is another one of those "I woulnd't want it if they gave it to me" properties. As always, Mama, thanks for another good read!

Anonymous said...

Thank you mama - great research! So, this Singh guy lost money on his first apartment ($300K or so after commissions), lost millions on the second apartment, and I really loved that he owns an apartment in Aventura, FL that probably lost 50%-60% of its value, that's just a cherry on top!

It's just so fair that he burned through his own money just as effectively as he did with other people's money in his so called "job". What a great read!

Anonymous said...

They just said on CNBC that Fuld put his appt on the market for $31M, $10M more what his paid for it just 2 years ago. I so hope (and expect) that he sells at a loss!

Frau Schadenfreudchen said...

Kaum zu glauben dass diese Leute so viel Geld verlangen. Wahnsinn!

Jimmy said...
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Jimmy said...
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Jimmy said...

Well, if you wack off the right most 3 digits on all those dollar amounts, you end up with numbers that all too many regular Americans are dealing with these days.

I guess poverty and financial difficulties are a relative thing. Stil, I have a hard time conjuring up any tears for those guys

Anonymous said...

I don't see a sink in the bathroom of that tiny bedroom at 860. Do you wash your hands in the terlet.

Anonymous said...

Just who in the world can afford to buy these places now. You know, after these crooks got done with all of us?

Anonymous said...

Let us hope it gets MUCH MUCH WORSE before it gets better. I want these evil beings to SUFFER.

Anonymous said...

After a few G&T's I'm not sure which kitchen was in the photo, but jeez is it ugly. White cabinets, brown island, and blue counters.

And agreed with the general consensus - all these Wall St. pricks need to be taken down several levels. I can only hope they're experiencing 'declined' charges on credit while out shopping at boutiques or dining in high dollar restaurants.

CoachingByPeter said...

By knowing your local real estate investing market, you're able to keep your finger on the pulse of your local community and to stay abreast of changes in trends, sales prices and rental rates. Knowing immediately about these changes is critical to your investing future.

Tracy said...

Great investigative work, Mama, on this and 820 5th Ave. I love the floor plan porn! Like others I am baffled by the layout of the duplex. Who puts a soaking tub in front of a ground floor window? And a guest bedroom that gets to hear all the nuances of the traffic at Park and 75th? (Or maybe that's a passive aggressive technique to get rid of the mother in law.) Is the library papered in plaid, or wood panels that looks like plaid? Questions, questions.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you read the comments Mama, but your posts are beyond terrific. You put a lot of work, effort and research that I think we all appreciate. Thank you. Many Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Oh...my...goodness.

Great post, Mama.