Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hank Paulson Takes It In the Real Estate Kiester

SELLER: Henry Paulson
LOCATION: Washington, D.C.
PRICE: $3,250,000
SIZE: 2,260 square feet, 3 full and 2 half bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Yesterday Your Mama discussed a fairly ordinary but still expensive home in Hawaii, the same state–not the same house–where President Obama, his handsome family and a coterie of Secret Service Agents spent holed up over the December holidays. Today we hop on our broom and high tail it right back to Washington, D.C. where former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and Bailout Baron Henry "Hank" Paulson recently took it in the real estate kiester.

Yes, we know we have arrived unfashionably late to the fête about Mister Paulson's recent real estate travails, it having already been discussed on Curbed, Bloomberg, Huffington Post, and etc., but we just can't resist a good story.

Mister Hank Paulson–a man whose name ought to be known to every tax-paying American–spent a few years in the early 1970s working in Washington. First he hoofed it at the Pentagon and then he punched the clock as an assistant to naughty boy John Ehrlichman, one of then-President Richard Nixon's right arm men and a key player in the Watergate scandal that sent him to the pokey for a year an a half on convictions of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury. In 1974 Mister Paulson left government service and hired into the Chicago office of the frightfully powerful investment banking concern Goldman Sachs. He rose through the ranks, and in the late 1990s he'd clawed his way to the tippy-top spot of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) a vaunted position that earned him mountains of moolah.

In 2006 then-President George W. Bush tapped Mister Paulson to replace John Snow as the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. Mister Paulson agreed and walked back into the belly of the political beast. Some may say that a man with Mister Paulson's experience and connections in the international financial markets is precisely what made him an ideal candidate for the job. Others might hiss that Mister Paulson's deep ties to Goldman Sachs was a little like letting a fox loose in the hen house. Not long after Mister Paulson took the Treasury Department reins Wall Street and sub-prime mortgage markets (and so forth) went into a major melt down. The world learned of complex financial instruments like credit default swaps that helped to hobble the banking industry and bring the entire U.S. economy to its knees.

Mister Paulson, as the Treasury Secretary, was given the task to spearhead the inevitable and controversial government bailout of Wall Street and the various banking and insurance conglomerates whose spreadsheets were spontaneously bursting into flames. In the fall of 2008 with the economy in free-fall Mister Paulson and Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve and arguably the real leader of the Free World, used (roughly) 700 billion taxpayer bucks to buy up bad debt incurred by the labyrinthine shenanigans of private financial institutions. Some argue this was a good thing and some staunchly declare this was a great thing. Some were adamant that these banks and other big businesses like GM were too big to fail; while others felt in the pit of their stomach it was little more than a cash grab engineered to funnel vast sums of public money into private hands. Whatever one thinks, the whole matter was 14 kinds of ugly, seven types of perplexing and 147 sorts of flabbergasting that left Your Mama's insides all tore up from a steady diet almost entirely comprised of copious amounts of gin, tonic, lime wedges and nerve pills.

Mister Paulson and his long-time wife Wendy have a net worth frequently and usually reported to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $700,000,000. Their astonishing wealth makes the house they recently sold in Washington, D.C. seem modest for a man of his means, particularly compared to the real estate excess they can quite easily afford iffin they wanted.

Property records show that in August of 2010, just a month after being sworn in as Treasury Secretary, Mister and Missus Paulson paid $4,300,000 for their former residence located in a leafy neighborhood not so far from the Washington National Cathedral and walking distance to the embassies of Belgium, Norway, Finland, Azerbaijan and Iraq.

Now that he's left his post as Treasury Secretary Mister and Missus Paulson no longer require a residence in the nation's capital, or at least not this residence in D.C. According to Redfin, in April of 2010 the Paulsons put their 2,260 square foot house on the market with an asking price of $4,600,000. In September the price plummeted to $4,150,000 and just a few days before Christmas the Paulson pad sold for $3,250,000.

If Your Mama makes a few quick flicks of the well-worn beads of our bejeweled abacus we figure that Mister and Missus Paulson lost $1,050,000 on the sale of their house, not counting the fat real estate fees they coughed up that easily ran them another hundred or hundred and fifty grand. Your Mama would bet our long-bodied bitches Linda and Beverly and our mean ol' pussy Sugar that there aren't more than seven people who feel even a hint of icky for Mister Paulson's million-plus-dollar real estate loss.

Anyhoo, there does not appear to be a garage on the property. That would make the tight, walled motorcourt at the front of the house the only off-street parking available for residents and guests, a situation that could become a real annoying situation during inclement weather episodes like the recent blizzards that pummeled the East Coast.

The house stands a full three stories at the back but the front façade presents as a petite vine-covered cottage done in an architectural style Your Mama might (probably incorrectly) label as Flemishy-French Provençal. The surprisingly spacious entry is on the middle level and the main living spaces contained on the lower (and lowest) level of the residence. Your Mama suggests you keep an eye on that orange folded-leather chair sitting mysteriously in the entrance hall.

One wing of the L-shaped living room, a formal but not uptight area, has four severe but comfortable-looking blood-red leather chairs that form a conversational half-circle in front of a wall of windows that open to reveal a terrace that extends from the back of the house. While we are having an unexpected love affair with the red chairs we're completely freaked out–and not in a good way–about that mini Shaker-style chair on the floor. On the one hand it's far to big to belong in a doll house and yet it's way too small even for a person like Chelsea Handler's little nugget Chuy. A trestle table/desk, the children will note, has a single folded-leather armchair just like the one in the upstairs entrance hall pulled up to it.

The other, more cozy and casual wing of the living room has a full wall of floor-to-ceiling cabinets and bookshelves stacked and lined with actual books. A carved stone fireplace flanked by tall and thin windows anchors the room where the matching solid beige upholstery used on all the furniture stands in sophisticated juxtaposition to the multicolored complexity of the rug. What we don't see in here is a boob-toob, which means these Paulson people probably read the damn books up in them there bookshelves instead of just pretending they've read them.

The formal dining room sits a few steps up from the living room and has maple floors, a too-low, narrow-beamed ceiling and two more folded-leather armchairs like one in the entrance hall. We're not sure if the Paulsons had some sort of seating object fetish or if these chairs were simply moved from room to room by the photographer.

Much to Your Mama's alarm listing photos show two more of those damned folded-leather chairs in breakfast room that bridges the gap between the dining room and the galley-style gore-may kitchen and spills out to a sunken stone terrace where a fountain full of geraniums is set into a retaining wall and where a custom arched canopy keeps direct overhead sun dappled and falling leaves from wafting into the cold gazpacho. Behind the kitchen a small room with attached pooper and separate entrance works as staff room or, as marked on the floor plan, an exercise room.

A bedroom just off the entrance hall on the middle floor has a lovely view of the trees out the window and an attached half bath. That's great for brushing the chompers and taking a pee pee but whomever gets stuck with that bedroom who might need or want to bathe in a more complete manner than a spit bath, they'll need to barge into the nearby master bathroom, schlep down a flight of stairs and through the kitchen to the shower in the exercise/staff room, or they'll have to haul their hineys up a flight to the upper level where they'll still have to pass through a bedroom and/or an office to get to a damn bathing facility. There is a school of thought that says one ought not make guests too comfortable lest they come too often and stay too long; depriving overnight guests of a convenient shower is one sure way to make sure they're not eager to return anytime soon.

The middle-floor master suite has a long entrance hall off of which are a bedroom with window-wrapped sitting area sectioned off by some pretty serious tan curtains with hidden tracks in the ceiling, There's a wall of bookshelves stuffed with books and at least one more of those ubiquitous orange folded-leather chairs that seem to have bred like rats from the one we first saw in the listing photo of the front entrance hall. At the far end of the hall a bedroom-sized dressing room has full-height built-in cabinets to hide all the clothes and a dressing table that looks like it might be covered in a wonderfully tactile suede with a dead-straight row of brass rivets that run along the two long sides. The master pooper, according to the floor plan provided with marketing materials, shows a double sink set-up fashioned from a chunky antique wood cabinet. There are rustic rough-hewn antique wood beams, a separate shower and soaking tub and, perhaps best of all, a cubby with both a terlit for the dirty bizness and a bidet for washing the naughty bits.

The upper level of the home, accessed by way of a dizzying s-curve stairway, sits tucked up into the eaves with a Jack-n-Jill bath between two (bed)rooms. The smaller room, a tight space outfitted with two twin beds set perpendicular to each other, has wallpaper that appears to be–but very well may not be–a misguided tone-on-tone feint leopard pattern. The narrow room looks a bit claustrophobic to Your Mama, a matter made worse by the sloped ceilings that look like they can hardly wait to bonk some heads. Again, the school of hospitality that suggests guests be kept a tad uncomfortable comes to mind.

Listing photos suggest that the Paulsons set up the second bedroom on the upper level as a home office. This more generously-scaled room has a built-in desk and cabinetry and opens through three sets of wood-paneled French doors to a treetop-level terrace. Just imagine, teardrops, the import of the sorts of decisions in regards to the global economy that were made in this very room as Mister Paulson sat in his Aeron chair and stared out into the thick forest that rings the rear of the property.

Patios and terraces tucked up and into the hillside surround the residence, but the bulk of the exterior living space manifests as a large curving terrace that extends off the back of the house and connects the intellectual poise of the home's comfy but refined interior spaces with the unbridled wilds of the rustling trees that encircle the terrace.

Until October of 2006 Mister and Missus Paulson maintained a 50th-floor spread at Millenium Tower, the same mixed-use structure where past and previous residents include wacky-actress-turned-tycoon Connie Stevens, talk show host Regis Philbin who hurts like tinfoil on a filling to Your Mama, and Oscar-nominated actor Alan Alda who has won six Emmys and been nominated for dozens more. The building's most notorious resident just might be satellite radio shock-jock Howard Stern who reportedly owns several adjacent apartments over a couple of floors that combined measure in at around 8,400 square feet. The Paulson's condo sold for $7,995,000 to a former Goldman Sachs underling of Mister Paulson's who now works for Morgan Stanley.

Property records indicate that Mister and Missus Paulson have owned and maintained a 5+ acre estate outside Chicago, IL in Barrington since at least 1987 and in 2002 the records reveal the couple snatched up a 5,079 square foot house with 5 bedrooms and 4.5 poopers in Summit County, CO, near the swank ski resort Vail.

Of course Your Mama don't know a collateralized debt obligation from walnut so we can not say with any certainty a damn thing about where Mister and Missus Paulson plan to live out their wildly wealthy semi-retirement, but property records we dug up on the interweb show that in March of 2010 they coughed up $1,450,000 to purchase a 2,354 square foot condo in a newly-built full-service apartment tower in the East Loop area of Chicago that includes 3 bedrooms, 2.5 poopers, floor-to-ceiling windows, two balconies, custom window shades and an integrated surround sound system. The apartment has panoramic views of Lake Michigan, Millenium Park, the Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion and Anish Kapoor's sleek and amorphous sculpture The Bean, the latter two alone being utterly dazzling and heroic enough to justify a trip to Windy City.

listing photos: Washington Fine Properties


commentator8 said...

Whatever your feelings about Hank, he circulates through some seriously modest real estate for someone worth three quarters of a billion dollars.

Some other people (like Lindsey Lohan) should take note.

lil' gay boy said...

What a peculiar home; it boggles the mind that the hand that was on the tiller, as it were, has such odd taste in real estate.

Definitely not home for a "family" (but then I wouldn't raise a dog in DC), the floor plan is convoluted, yet appropriate to the steeply sloping site.

And no, our Mama is not delusional (I too take my nerve pill with a lime wedge); there is something decidedly odd about those leather armchairs proliferating everywhere...

Anonymous said...

Sorry Mama, but I have absolutely zero sympathy for someone with such obscene wealth setting policy for ordinary citizens. What connection could he have to my sad little life? He probably pushed for the huge tax breaks for rich people to further increase his share of the pie.

This real estate loss is pocket change to him. Welcome to the real world, Hanky-Poo.

Anonymous said...

The Obamas spent the holidays with Daniel Dae Kim?

Anonymous said...

hey...did I miss something ? I went back to that post about the (plain, boring) house in Hawaii and reread it but I didn't see anything about the prez and company staying there...where was that story ? you MAMA !!! You're a hoot ! and like another poster mentioned the other day, you also have awesome, funny chillens

Baroness Rebecca said...

I thought I would like that house, from the floor plan, but the pictures tell a different story. I thought it was hideously ugly.

But, Mama, this was one of your better posts EVAH. Your horrified fascination with the chairs had me giggling throughout...until I hit the "bred like rats" part, which had me guffawing. I also liked the barging into the master bath part, and something at the end which I've already forgotten. But the smile remains on my face as I type this.

Good job. Ugly house. One more bad financial decision on the part of its owner, God knows he's full of them.

Anonymous said...

Mama, check out Andrew Sorkin's Too Big To Fail; he's got lots of information about Pualson and explains that he's obsessive about living a modest life. The apartment in NYC was 2000 sq ft, which is tiny for a finance CEO. He's a bird-watcher and environmentalist; his single biggest expense is that he's slowly buying up a coastal island off of either SC or GA.

Anonymous said...

Ya'll need to go back and reread this posting. Mama says "the same state–not the same house–where President Obama, his handsome family and a coterie of Secret Service Agents spent holed up over the December holidays."

Not even an oblique implication that the Obama's vacayed with that Korean actor fella.

As for the proliferation of those leather folding chairs, I suspect that some government G6 assistant type was given a "black" American Express card and told to go buy furnishings for this temporary abode of the (then new) Treasury Secretary. Lacking imagination, he/she picked up a dozen or so of those chairs (along with a batch load of other ugly ass furniture) to make this house a (temporary) home for Mr. & Mrs. Paulson.

Anonymous said...

"A modest life..."??!! With three or four multi-million dollar homes? Modest by billionaire standards, not be normal standards. I did like the symbolism of the office with the great lord sitting at the desk and red high backed chairs for four acolytes (or as* kissers if you prefer) arrayed in front of him ready to receive their marching orders.

Designer Dave in San Diego said...

Mama, with all due respect, I believe the chairs you've referred to as " orange folded-leather chair" are actually
Cassina (Mario Bellini) Cab chairs. A quite popular, well made and respected, iconic chair of the modern design world.

Love you and the blog, keep up the great, hard work.


steve Mawson said...

If I'm not mistaken, in this "Actor's Studio" scene with Mr R Williams, are high back versions of those ass ugly chairs and even Robin can't make them funny or attractive !