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America’s most expensive home sold to hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin

[NEW YORK] Ken Griffin is showing how a billionaire goes on a shopping spree.

Just days after buying one of the most expensive residential properties in London, the Citadel founder set a US record with the US$238 million (S$323 million) penthouse at 220 Central Park South. The approximately 2,200 sqm apartment will give him a place to stay when he's working in New York, a Citadel spokeswoman said. The price makes it America's most expensive home.

"He's definitely a global trophy hunter and he bought what would arguably be now the number one building in New York," said Donna Olshan, president of Olshan Realty Inc.

"I don't think that the fact that he buys an extraordinary trophy property speaks anything about the market. It's just this is what he does and you have to look at it as a one-off. Hats off to the developer for that kind of sale."

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Earlier this month, Mr Griffin paid about 95 million pounds (S$168.7 million) for a 200-year-old home overlooking London's St. James's Park about half a mile from Buckingham Palace. The 20,000 square-foot home includes a gym, pool and underground extension.

Mr Griffin, 50, started trading convertible bonds from his dorm room at Harvard University. The Florida native founded Citadel in 1990 and has expanded it into a global empire managing hedge funds and making markets. He's amassed a US$9.6 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a ranking of the world's 500 wealthiest people.

Along the way, he's bought real estate in New York and Chicago worth more than US$500 million, not including the most recent purchases.

GOLD COAST

Acquisitions over the past few years included US$30 million for two floors of the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Chicago and a Miami Beach penthouse for US$60 million. In 2017, Mr Griffin set the record for the most-expensive Chicago home, paying US$58.75 million for a four-level penthouse atop the Gold Coast's No. 9 Walton apartment tower, according to Crain's. He's also acquired about US$230 million of property in Palm Beach, Florida, according to the Palm Beach Daily News.

In 2009, Griffin paid US$40 million for an apartment at 820 Fifth Ave, at 63rd Street, in New York, buying the 12th-floor unit from Lily Safra, widow of banker Edmond Safra.

Mr Griffin also has a history of breaking records in the art world. In 2016, he bought works by Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning from David Geffen's foundation for about US$500 million. He's also an active philanthropist who's given more than US$600 million to educational and cultural causes, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Whitney Museum of American Art and Harvard University.

Olshan compared luxury property deals like Mr Griffin's with the art market, where sky-high price tags don't necessarily reflect broader demand.

"It's not a proxy for the market," Mr Olshan said. "I just consider it a one-off, an anomaly, an extraordinary sale, much like you see in the art market when somebody goes out and spends an absurd amount of money - it doesn't necessarily indicate that that's where the art market is going."

The luxury condo tower in New York he just closed on was built by Vornado Realty Trust, which said in October it was approaching 85 percent sold, with 26 full-floor units in contract. The Robert A.M. Stern-designed project faces the southern entrance to Central Park, with most of the 118 units offering unobstructed views. The Wall Street Journal earlier reported Mr Griffin's purchase.

Citadel has signed a lease to anchor a skyscraper at 425 Park Avenue, not far from Mr Griffin's new apartment, not including vertical travel. The office building, developed by L&L Holding and designed by Norman Foster, topped out last month. It's supposed to be completed in 2020, and Citadel will take about 30,825 sqm on 16 floors including the penthouse.

The price for the 220 Central Park South property is well more than double the previous record for a residential sale in Manhattan, which was US$100.5 million for the penthouse at One57. That deal was completed in 2014.

Appetites for Manhattan's ultra-luxury homes have since waned. A few blocks away from One57, a buyer purchased three apartments near the top of the 96-story tower at 432 Park Ave for a combined US$91.1 million, in a deal that closed in December 2017. That was a 25 per cent discount from the combined sticker price of US$120.8 million.

A Vornado spokesman declined to comment, as did Corcoran Group's Deborah Kern, who represented Vornado. Tal Alexander, who along with his brother Oren represented Mr Griffin, also didn't comment.

By one metric, Mr Griffin didn't necessarily overpay for his New York apartment.

Based on its size, he probably paid about US$10,000 a square foot. A penthouse at 15 Central Park West sold for US$88 million, or US$13,000 a square foot, in 2012.

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