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Park Avenue co-op sells for record $52.5 million

A recent sale in New York’s famed 740 Park Avenue apartment building marked the highest price ever paid for a co-op in the city’s history.

Billionaire investor Howard Marks, the co-founder of Oaktree Capital Management, and his wife Nancy purchased the property for $52.5 million, according to public records.

The former owner was Courtney Sale Ross, the widow of Steven Ross, who was the co-chairman of Time Warner (TWX, Fortune 500) (the parent company of CNNMoney). The more than 20-room apartment, which was sold by real estate firm Brown Harris Stevens, was initially listed for $60 million a year ago.

The May 4th sale marks the highest co-op purchase price in the history of Manhattan real estate, according to Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of Miller Samuel, a New York appraisal firm.

With eight bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, formal and informal dining rooms and sweeping terraces, there is about 10,000 square feet of interior space — valued at about $5,250 per square foot, Miller said. The real estate taxes alone on the transaction came to nearly $1.5 million.

The Marks’ neighbors will include billionaire David Koch and Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and John D. Rockefeller Jr. have also lived in the 31-unit building.

“Up until the opening of 15 Central Park West, it was the trophiest piece of trophy real estate in the city,” said Michael Gross, author of 740 Park.

Sales at the very high end of the market have thrived in recent months, mostly due to foreign buyers seeking safe investments in the midst of global economic turmoil, Miller said.

In December, Citigroup founder Sanford Weill sold his penthouse condo in 15 Central Park West for $88 million to a Russian billionaire, making it the most expensive apartment ever sold in Manhattan. Prices for co-operatives, like the units in 740 Park, generally lag condominium prices because of the difficulty buyers often have getting the required board approval.

Activity in the very high end of the real estate market often happens in clusters, Miller said. “The market has a light switch; it’s either on or off.”

Overall, Manhattan home prices averaged just under $1.5 million in the first quarter of 2012, which included the $88 million sale at 15 Central Park West, according to Brown Harris Stevens’ most recent data. The median price, which measures the middle of the market and is less impacted by the very high end, rose 4% to $821,500.

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