666 Fifth Avenue

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666 Fifth Avenue
666 Fifth Avenue by David Shankbone.jpg
Former namesTishman Building
General information
StatusComplete
TypeOffice
Location666 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, New York 10103
Coordinates40°45′37″N 73°58′34″W / 40.760163°N 73.976204°W / 40.760163; -73.976204
Completed1957
OpeningNovember 25, 1957
Cost$40,000,000
OwnerBrookfield Properties
Height
Roof483 ft (147 m)
Technical details
Floor count41
Floor area1,463,892 sq ft (136,000.0 m2)
Lifts/elevators24 (20 passenger, 4 freight)
Design and construction
ArchitectCarson & Lundin
DeveloperTishman Realty and Construction

666 Fifth Avenue is a 41-story office building on Fifth Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets in Midtown Manhattan, New York City.[1] The office tower was designed by Carson & Lundin and built in 1957 by Tishman Realty and Construction. Tishman sold the building when the corporation dissolved in 1976. 666 Fifth Avenue was bought by Sumitomo Realty & Development in the late 1990s, and Tishman Speyer bought it back in 2000, adding tenants before selling it yet again to Kushner Properties in 2007.[2] In August 2018, Brookfield Properties purchased the building.[3][4]

Ownership and history[edit]

Construction, Tishman ownership[edit]

The Tishman family via Tishman Realty and Construction built the 1,500,000-square-foot (140,000 m2) tower in 1957 for $40,000,000.[5] Previously, the address had been home to a Stanford White-designed mansion built in 1908 for the family of William Kissam Vanderbilt II.[6] The part of the site at 660 Fifth Avenue had also previously held the William K. Vanderbilt House, an 1882 châteauesque mansion designed by Richard Morris Hunt for William Kissam Vanderbilt. However, the mansion had been demolished in 1926 and replaced with a 12-story office building by developer Benjamin Winter.[6]

The new building was designed by Carson & Lundin, who also simultaneously worked on 600 Fifth Avenue in the nearby Rockefeller Center, and the building was called the Tishman Building. One of its most famous exterior features was the prominent 666 address emblazoned on the top of the building. The other distinctive exterior features are embossed aluminum panels. The original design included lobby sculptures by Japanese American artist and landscape architect Isamu Noguchi, including the "Landscape of the Cloud" which consists of sinuously cut thin railings in the ceiling to create a cloud effect. The cloud is also carried into a ceiling-to-floor waterfall. The penthouse was occupied by the Top of the Sixes restaurant, operated by Stouffer's, which closed in 1996.[7]

The building officially opened on November 25, 1957 in a ceremony led by Mayor of New York City Robert F. Wagner Jr..[8] Before the building opened, it was 80% leased to tenants including Foster Wheeler, Warner Bros., Revlon, Benton & Bowles, Ted Bates & Co, and American Export-Isbrandtsen Lines.[9] Additionally, Prudential Financial had agreed to purchase the building before completion and lease it back to Tishman for 88 years.[8] For many years the building had a distinctive feature of a T-shaped atrium walk-through open to the sidewalks on 52nd Street, 53rd Street and Fifth Avenue with glass storefronts inside the walk-through. This included a bookstore and another area used for years by Alitalia Airlines.

Sales and renovations[edit]

Tishman Realty dissolved in 1976 and the building was sold for $80 million (about $280 million in 2018[10]). Office tenants at the time included Donovan Data Systems, Keydata Corporation, Loews Cineplex Entertainment, and Shearson while Ted Lapidus occupied the retail space.[11][12] On the afternoon of February 9, 1984, a fire broke out on the building's third floor which injured eleven people including seven firefighters and required the building to be evacuated.[13]

In 1985, the Rockefeller Group, a subsidiary of Japanese developer Mitsubishi Estate Co., bought Rockefeller Center.[14] Japanese realty and development company Sumitomo followed by purchasing 666 Fifth Avenue for $500 million in 1987.[15] Major changes included replacing the Top of the Sixes restaurant with the Grand Havana Room, a cigar bar private club.[16]

In March 1995, law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, previously at 599 Lexington Avenue, signed a lease for 102,000 square feet (9,500 m2) of space on the buildings 17th through 20th floors after Bertelsmann left the space for their new headquarters at 1540 Broadway.[17] In November 1997, the National Basketball Association announced plans to open their first-ever store at the base of the building, replacing bookstore B. Dalton.[18] Brooks Brothers opened a store at the base of the building in 1998, signing a 15-year lease for 23,000 square feet (2,100 m2) at a rent of $5 million per year after Nautica backed out of the space.[19] In 1999, Sumitomo undertook a $20 million renovation of the building's lobby and lower floors, the first since the building had been completed over 40 years earlier.[20] Initially, Sumitomo planned to remove the Noguchi artwork but eventually agreed to instead spend $1 million renovating the ceiling installation and another $300,000 to restore the fountain.[21] The renovation also relocated an entrance to the Fifth Avenue/53rd Street subway station and replaced the aluminum panels facing Fifth Avenue with glass to allow better visibility for the retail space.[22] After the renovations, the tower was 99% occupied.[15]

The newly reconstituted Tishman Speyer Properties bought the building for $518 million in 2000 (about $730 million in 2018)[10], and about the same time Tishman also bought Rockefeller Center. Shortly after the purchase, Tishman enclosed the atrium walk-through and added a third tenant, Hickey Freeman with a new 4,000 square feet (370 m2) store designed by Robert A. M. Stern.[23][24] The enclosure cut off the Fifth Avenue entrance, and access now has to be via 52nd or 53rd Street. In 2002 the 666 address on the side of the building was replaced with a Citigroup logo after Citigroup became the building's largest tenant.[25] That same year, Tishman reportedly hired Lazard to market the building for $900 million, although a sale never took place.[26]

Kushner purchase and financing[edit]

Front of 666 Fifth Avenue

In January 2007, Tishman Speyer, along with the German investment firm TMW, announced the sale of the building to Kushner Properties for $1.8 billion (about $2.2 billion in 2018[10]), at the time the highest price ever paid for an individual building in Manhattan.[2] The sale was the third blockbuster deal involving Tishman in two years. In 2005 Tishman bought the MetLife Building for $1.72 billion (about $2.2 billion in 2018)[10], setting the previous record.[27] A month before the 666 sale, Tishman bought Stuyvesant Town–Peter Cooper Village for $5.4 billion, which was the biggest real estate deal in U.S. history.[28]

The sale was unusual for several reasons. First, the Kushner Companies had traditionally focused on smaller multi-family residential properties in New Jersey and their only other Manhattan holding was the Puck Building, purchased in the 1990s.[29] However, after Charles Kushner was jailed in 2005 for 18 counts of illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering, Jared Kushner took over the family company at just 26 years old and sought to make a bigger name for himself by expanding into Manhattan.[30] In a symbol of the company's shift in focus, Jared Kushner moved its headquarters into the building from Florham Park, New Jersey.[31] Second, the building had no official ask price and was never officially marketed for sale but instead Rob Speyer personally called potential suitors to let them know the building might be up for grabs.[29] Third, this was an unconventional price for such a short building by New York standards; standing at just 483 ft (147 m), 666 Fifth is not among the top 150 tallest buildings in New York City. But, after getting beat out on the $1.5 billion purchase of 1211 Avenue of the Americas by Beacon Capital Partners in 2006, Jared Kushner was adamant about not losing out on 666 Fifth Avenue and so offered an unprompted $1.8 billion in order to guarantee the success of his company's bid.[29] Fourth, the majority of the deal was put together in less than a week, an unprecedentedly short time frame to conduct the necessary due diligence for such a major deal.[29] Finally, Kushner put down just $50 million in equity and borrowed the remaining $1.75 billion from a consortium of lenders.

In order to pay for the building, Kushner secured a $1.215 billion commercial mortgage-backed security (CMBS) senior loan from Barclays and UBS that was split into six different pari passu notes securitized by GE Capital and Wachovia.[32] The loan had a term of 10 years and was interest-only for the entire term, meaning that Kushner would only have to pay the 6.353% interest rate.[33] Additionally, Kushner obtained $535 million in mezzanine financing, split into a $335 million senior tranche and a $200 million junior tranche. Backing up the financing, Kushner obtained an appraisal valuing the property at nearly $3 billion, 75% more than the company had paid for the property just months earlier. According to New York real estate magazine The Real Deal, such a big gap between a building's purchase price and appraisal value is unheard of and the values are generally within 10% of each other, even during the commercial real estate bubble of 2005-2007.[32]

The banks also expected Kushner to be able to more than double the building's office rents from $53.5 million per year to $118.6 million. Such aggressive values were necessary in order to keep the building's loan-to-value ratio (LTV) in a reasonable range since based on the purchase price of $1.8 billion, the $1.215 billion senior loan represented a 67.5% LTV. However, using the appraised value reduced the LTV to a more conservative 60.75%, making the CMBS seem safer to credit rating agencies.[32] More worryingly, the building's in-place rents yielded a debt service coverage ratio (DSCR) of just 0.65x, meaning that the building's net cash flows could only pay for 65% of the senior loan's interest payments, before paying for the mezzanine loans, the senior loan's principal, or any returns to Kushner.[33] If Kushner was unable to raise rents to the levels anticipated, the building would lose millions of dollars a year just in interest payments on the senior loan.

Global financial crisis and early difficulties[edit]

Kushner sold a 49% stake in the retail condominium portion of 666 Fifth to a Carlyle and Stanley Chera-led group for $525 million in 2008 (about $610 million in 2018).[10][34] The buyers financed the purchase with a $300 million mortgage from Barclays and a $135 million mezzanine loan from real estate investment trust SL Green Realty.[6] The cash infusion also allowed Kushner to repay the $335 senior mezzanine loan they had taken out the previous year.[6] The same year, the company bought-out Brooks Brothers retail lease, paying the company $47 million to close their store eight years before their lease ended. The retail owners also paid Hickey Freeman $11.96 million to leave their space.[35]

In July 2009, law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe left their space in the building to move to the nearby CBS Building.[36] In March 2010, the CMBS loan backing the property was transferred to a special servicer after Kushner reported difficulties paying the mortgage.[37] In April 2010, Japanese retailer Uniqlo signed a record-setting 15-year, $300 million lease for 89,000 square feet (8,300 m2) of space at the base of the building to serve as their new Fifth Avenue flagship.[38] Shortly after signing the Uniqlo deal, the Carlyle-led group put the retail space back on the market, hoping to fetch between $600 and $700 million in a sale of their stake.[39] Around the same time, law firm Vinson & Elkins renewed and expanded their 81,000 square feet (7,500 m2) lease in the building.[40]

After the NBA Store closed in February 2011, Zara owner Inditex purchased the 39,000 square feet (3,600 m2) space for $324 million, a record deal for a U.S. retail property. The company planned to spend a further $76 million to buy out the National Basketball Association's remaining lease and build out the space.[41] With the proceeds of the sale, Carlyle paid off the Barclays loan on the retail space along with the SL Green mezzanine loan and refinanced the remaining retail space with a new $300 million loan from Morgan Stanley.[6] The same month, Swatch signed a 15-year lease valued at $80 million for the last 2,000 square feet (190 m2) of retail space in the building.[35][6] In November, law firm Schiff Hardin signed a lease for 48,000 square feet (4,500 m2) of office space on the building's 16th and 17th floors.[42]

By 2010, an appraisal valued the building at just $820 million, less than half what Kushner Companies had paid three years earlier.[43] At the end of 2011, Kushner brought in Vornado Realty Trust which purchased a 49.5% equity stake in the tower for just $80 million and the assumption of half the building's debt.[44] Kushner also agreed to invest another $30 million to cover the costs of leasing the 30% of the building that was vacant and rework the space to suit tenant needs. At the same time, the lenders behind the senior $1.22 billion mortgage agreed to reduce the loan balance to $1.1 billion, with the remainder placed into a "hope note" that would be repaid when the building's vacancy was reduced. The debt's maturity was also pushed out two years to 2019 and the interest rate was reduced from 6.3% to 4.5%.[44]

The bulk of the mortgage had been previously sold in the CMBS market and the remaining $285 million balance had been syndicated to firms specializing in subordinated debt including AREA Property Partners, Starwood Capital Group, Colony Capital and Paramount Group.[44] Colony Capital founder Thomas J. Barrack Jr. later claimed Donald Trump personally called him to set up a meeting with Jared Kushner to invest $45 million in the building's distressed debt.[45] Further reports indicated that Jared Kushner had complained to his wife Ivanka Trump about Barrack pressuring him on the debt and that she had asked her father Donald Trump to set up a meeting.[43] AREA Property Partners also held $105.4 million of the building's debt and objected to the restructuring plan. In retaliation, Jared Kushner reportedly directed Elizabeth Spiers, the publisher of The New York Observer which Kushner had purchased in 2006, to publish a "hit piece" against AREA's CEO Richard Mack. However, after several months of effort yielded no leads, Kushner reportedly dropped the request and no article was ever published by The Observer.[43]

In 2012, Starwood Capital Group also purchased $30.82 million of air rights for construction of their Baccarat Hotel and Residences next door at 20 West 53rd Street.[6] In July 2012, Vornado additionally agreed to buy the rest of the retail space from Carlyle, paying $707 million for their remaining stake.[46] The next month, Miami-based law firm Akerman LLP leased 48,000 square feet (4,500 m2) on the 19th and 20th floors of the building.[47] In October 2013, Colliers International leased 57,000 square feet (5,300 m2) on the fourth floor of the building to serve as the company's New York headquarters.[48] However, in May 2015 Norton Rose Fulbright left the building for the Credit Lyonnais Building.[49]

Search for investors and continued difficulties[edit]

As early as 2012, the Kushner Companies had reached out to the family of Israeli businessman Beny Steinmetz to potentially invest in the property.[50] From 2014 through 2016, Kushner Companies reportedly held talks with former Prime Minister of Qatar Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani to invest in the project.[51] Trump ally Thomas J. Barrack Jr. claimed to have arranged the meetings, and later said a tentative deal for a $500 million equity investment fell apart because Al Thani wanted to avoid conflict of interests due to Jared Kushner's White House role.[51] In late 2015, Saudi Arabian billionaire Fawaz Alhokair reportedly considered an investment in the property and in 2016, Kushner reportedly held talks with the South Korean state-owned sovereign wealth fund Korea Investment Corporation, however, neither deal was ever closed.[50] French billionaire Bernard Arnault was also reportedly asked to invest in the retail portion of the property but declined.[50]

The property lost $14.5 million in 2016 as debt payments outweighed net operating income, worse than the roughly $10 million loss reported for 2015.[52] Additionally, the building was only 70% occupied at the time, despite average Manhattan office buildings being 91% leased.[53]

The Grand Havana Room of the property was the site of a August 2, 2016 meeting between Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and Russian-Ukrainian Konstantin Kilimnik. The meeting drew the attention of the Mueller investigation due to Manafort giving Kilimnik polling data at the meeting and asking Kilimnik to pass the data to pro-Russian Ukrainians Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov.[54][55][56][57]

Anbang controversy[edit]

In July 2016, Kushner Companies began talks with Anbang Insurance Group of China about a potential investment in the building.[58] The talks picked up prominence after Anbang's chairman and CEO Wu Xiaohui held a private dinner with Jared Kushner, Charles Kushner, and Laurent Morali on November 16th, 2016 at the Waldorf Astoria New York.[59][58] This was despite Kushner's supposed separation from the Kushner Companies as part of his transition to his White House role.[60] Benjamin Lawsky, the former New York Superintendent of Financial Services who met Xiaohui while investigating Anbang's 2015 purchase of Fidelity & Guaranty Life, reportedly introduced Kushner and Xiaohui. Chinese corruption expert Minxin Pei suggested the transaction could be a way for Xiaohui to buy political influence and protect himself from the anti-corruption campaign under Xi Jinping by cultivating powerful allies in the United States government.[58] Xiaohui was eventually jailed in China in June 2017 and ultimately sentenced to 18 months in prison for a variety of financial crimes. The meeting also stoked controversy as it came just one week after Jared Kushner's father-in-law Donald Trump won the 2016 United States presidential election.[58]

In March 2017, Bloomberg News reported that the company was in talks to invest $400 million in the building, based on a value of $2.85 billion ($1.6 billion for the office section, and $1.25 billion for the retail section).[61] Anbang and Kushner planned to take out a massive construction loan of more than $4 billion along with a record $850 million in EB-5 visa program financing and convert the property’s higher floors into luxury condominiums. At the same time, the Kushners would invest $750 million in the retail portion of the building and end up with a 20% stake in the project. Reports at the time expected the final property to be valued at $7.2 billion, making it the most valuable single property in Manhattan and New York City.[61][62]

Some of the alleged terms of the deal were called "unusually favorable," including an exit for Vornado Realty Trust and retirement of the Kushner organization's remaining debt at 20 cents on the dollar, raising concerns about political influence on the Donald Trump presidential administration due to Jared Kushner's position.[61] These concerns led a group of Democratic Senators including Elizabeth Warren, Tom Carper, Gary Peters, Sherrod Brown, and Chair of the United States House Committee on Oversight and Reform Elijah Cummings to send a letter to United States Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin demanding investigation by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.[63] The senators also highlighted Wu Xiaohui's connections to the Communist Party of China, including his marriage to Zhuo Ran, the granddaughter of influential Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. Another prominent Anbang owner was Chen Xiaolu, the son of People's Liberation Army Marshall Chen Yi and a princeling who confessed to torturing public school teachers during the Cultural Revolution as a member of the Chinese Red Guards.[62] Shortly after the reports were made, Anbang denied that they were looking to invest in the building and no deal came to fruition, due in part to political pressure both in China and the United States.[64]

Conversion plans and Qatar talks[edit]

After the failure of the Anbang deal, Zaha Hadid Architects unveiled plans for a $12 billion, 1,400 feet (430 m) skyscraper developed by the Kushner organization to replace the current building. The proposed project would cost four times as much as the taller Central Park Tower and would have been the third most expensive building ever constructed. Rather than tear down the current building, Kushner would strip the structure down to its steel frame and add forty stories on top of it, similar to the process used at nearby 425 Park Avenue.[59] The new building would have the first nine floors occupied by a "vertical mall" similar to The Shops at Columbus Circle topped by an 11-story hotel and 464,000 square feet (43,100 m2) of high-end condominiums. The project would be completed by 2025 at the earliest and would face a park, created by razing a block of current buildings. The developers also planned to change the name to 660 Fifth Avenue, to avoid the diabolical association with the number 666.[65][66]

In late April 2017, Charles Kushner met with Qatari Finance Minister Ali Sharif Al Emadi at the St. Regis New York.[51] Reports of the meeting first surfaced on investigative reporting website The Intercept in March 2018, which reported that Charles Kushner arranged the meeting in an attempt to secure funding for the new tower from Qatar's sovereign wealth fund but that Emadi declined to provide any financing.[67] The outlet also highlighted the controversial timing of the meeting, which came roughly one month before the 2017-19 Qatar diplomatic crisis began. Jared Kushner reportedly sided with Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman in the conflict and undermined United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's efforts to resolve the crisis.[68] Kushner Companies responded by stating, "We did not meet with anyone from the Qatari Government to solicit sovereign funds for any of our projects."[51] Charles Kushner later claimed that Qatar arranged the meeting, saying, "Before the meeting, Kushner Companies had decided that it was not going to accept sovereign wealth fund investments. We informed the Qatar representatives of our decision and they agreed. Even if they were there ready to wire the money, we would not have taken it."[51]

The collapse of the Qatar talks along with the proposed project's exorbitant costs and the risks of the ultra-luxury condominium market dissuaded Vornado's Steven Roth who pushed for a more modest office renovation instead.[69] Speaking against the conversion plan, Roth remarked that the building "would be worth a lot more if it was just dirt."[50] Ultimately, the plans to replace the current building were withdrawn after Kushner's inability to bring on equity partners or lenders.[70]

In 2017, the building lost over $25 million after the $1.2 billion senior mortgage's interest rate increased from 5.5% to 6.353%.[52] Cash flow from the building's rents were only enough to cover about half of required interest payments, down from roughly two thirds the year before.[71] At the end of 2017, several Democratic lawmakers including Ted Lieu of California, Jamie Raskin of Maryland, and Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania sent a letter to Kushner Companies inquiring whether the company sought money from foreign governments to refinance the property.[72]

Due to the large amount of debt owed on the tower, Vornado Realty Trust, which owned 49.5 percent of the tower, said in February 2018 that it planned to sell its stake in the building.[73] Kushner subsequently agreed to purchase Vornado's stake for $120 million.[74][75]

Brookfield Properties[edit]

In August 2018, Brookfield Properties signed a 99-year lease for the property, effectively taking full ownership of the building.[3][4][76] Brookfield paid $1.286 billion for the property, over $500 million less than Kushner had paid a decade before. The deal allowed the senior mortgage to be paid off in full, however, the $300 million "hope note" was written-off entirely.[77] The company planned to invest more than $600 million to overhaul the building with a new lobby, facade and mechanical systems.[78] The purchase attracted controversy since the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) owned a 9% stake in Brookfield Property Partners, which it had purchased in 2014 for $1.8 billion.[79][80] However, a spokesperson for the QIA claimed Brookfield acted independently and that "QIA had absolutely no involvement in the 666 Fifth Avenue development."[80]

At the end of 2020, billionaire Israel Englander's hedge fund Millennium Management, LLC will leave 170,000 square feet (16,000 m2) in the building to move to nearby 399 Park Avenue.[81] In 2018, investment bank William Blair & Company also announced plans to leave the building for 40,000 square feet (3,700 m2) in 1166 Avenue of the Americas.[82] In February 2019 ING Bank loaned Brookfield Properties $750 million to pay for renovations on the property.[83] Apollo Global Management also reportedly provided a $300 million mezzanine loan, bringing the total financing to over $1 billion.[84] In April 2019, Vornado sold a 48% stake in a portfolio of their retail properties, including the retail condominium at 666 Fifth Avenue, to the Qatar Investment Authority and Crown Acquisitions in a deal that valued the entire portfolio at $5.6 billion.[85]

Tenants[edit]

Subway entrance[edit]

The building contains an entrance to the New York City Subway's Fifth Avenue/53rd Street station, which is served by the E and ​M trains.[92] When the Hollister Co. store was opened, polished gray columns were placed in the lobby near the elevators and changes were made to the subway entrance at the base of the building.

In popular culture[edit]

The opening lunch scene for the movie The Wolf of Wall Street was filmed in the former Top of the Sixes restaurant.[93]

The 1959 documentary film Skyscraper [94] was about the construction of 666 Fifth Avenue.[95] The film's director Shirley Clarke described it as a "musical comedy about the building of a skyscraper." Skyscraper was nominated for an Academy Award in 1960.[96]

Beginning in season 4 of Mad Men, the large "666" signage on top of the building can be seen prominently through the window just outside of Don Draper’s office in the Time-Life Building.

The building features in the 1978 horror novel Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg (adapted into the 1987 horror film Angel Heart). The novel's inciting incident is the meeting at the Top of the Sixes between gumshoe Johnny Angel and a mysterious client, Louis Cyphre. Hjortsberg's protagonist remarks of the building, "It looked like a forty-story cheese grater."

In Good Omens, the novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, the character of Famine is introduced at Top of the Sixes, celebrating the success of his diet book.

References[edit]

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