They say you can’t time the market, but in the last few weeks, some very smart people in business and finance have suddenly put some very expensive Manhattan apartments on the market, or cut prices, perhaps betting that prices will fall later if economic conditions worsen.(web editor: As NYC goes, so too does Aspen face simiar market trends – Tim Estin)

By Josh Barbanel, Oct 26, 2008, New York Times

One hedge fund manager, Scott Bessent, recently listed his 11-room duplex at One Sutton Place South, the gracious prewar building overlooking the East River near East 56th Street, for $12.5 million, asking just $500,000 more than what he paid for it 15 months earlier. The apartment was previously owned by Patricia Kennedy Lawford.

Last May, Oscar Schafer, a managing partner of O. S. S. Capital Management, a hedge fund, paid $14.67 million for a three-bedroom corner apartment at the Plaza on Fifth Avenue and Central Park South, and promptly put it back on the market for $18 million. Last week, he cut the price for the second time, to $14.5 million — less than he had paid, according to city records.

Over the last 30 days or so, long after the start of the fall selling season, 27 apartments were put on the market for $10 million to $20 million, according to data on, a real estate Web site.

At the Majestic, a 29-story co-op topped by twin towers on Central Park West and West 72nd Street, two three-bedroom units went on the market within hours of each other last week. One on the 17th floor is described by its broker as having “the ultimate renovation,” including curved white rift oak doors; the asking price is $12 million. The owner is a former senior managing director of Bear Stearns, which has been taken over by JPMorgan Chase.

The other, on the eighth floor and on the market for $13.8 million, is described as “the most magnificently renovated grand apartment to become available on Central Park West in years.” It is owned by a managing director of Allied Capital, whose stock price plunged after a subsidiary filed for bankruptcy protection last

Brokers say that while there is some fear and hesitation in the market, some of these sellers may be looking to shed trophy apartments that suddenly seem overly ostentatious in the current national mood. They may also be selling because they want a bigger or smaller place to live.

Lois Nasser, a vice president at Sotheby’s International Realty, said Mr. Schafer was selling at the Plaza simply because he had changed his mind. “Oscar Schafer has the most beautiful duplex penthouse at the Hampshire House and has recently bought the contiguous apartment,” she said.

At the Park Laurel, a 40-story tower at 15 West 63rd Street, between Central Park West and Broadway, asking prices are tumbling. A 2,800-square-foot four-bedroom apartment with a terrace, owned by Charles Michaels of the hedge fund Sierra Global Management, has languished on the market since February with an asking price of $14.9 million.

But two weeks ago, Steven F. Stuart, who left the Fortress Investment Group last year to become a founder of a new hedge fund, Garrison Investment, listed the apartment directly above (but without a terrace) for $10.8 million, a 28 percent discount. And then on Wednesday a similar unit in the same vertical line of apartments on the 37th floor, owned by Ira Resnick of the Resnick real estate family, went on the market for $10 million.

Several hours after being asked about the pricing of the Michaels listing, his broker, Judith A. Furgiuele of Brown Harris Stevens, announced that it had just been taken off the market.

At the Sherry-Netherland Hotel on Fifth Avenue and 59th Street, two apartments were briefly on the market for $15 million. One on the 33rd floor was listed in August by Alexa Lambert of Stribling & Associates on behalf of Eli Broad, the Los Angeles financier.

Then about a week and a half ago, Jeffrey Steiner, the former chief executive of the Fairchild Corporation, put his 11th-floor apartment on the market for the same price. But within a few days that price was cut to $13.5 million, after word began to circulate that an Italian fashion figure had agreed to buy the Broad apartment for about $14 million, but had so far held off signing the sales contract.

Mr. Bessent, who once worked with the financier George Soros, is now a senior managing director of Protégé Partners, another hedge fund. Yet despite his financial acumen, he has not made a killing in Manhattan real estate in recent years.

About the time he bought at Sutton Place South, he sold a condominium on the 75th floor of the south tower of the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle for $12.5 million, $485,000 more than he had paid 15 months earlier. With closing costs, he barely broke even.

Although New Yorkers have been accustomed to ever-rising resale prices, his $12.5 million listing price on Sutton Place South is $250,000 below the listing price when he bought the apartment a few years ago.