WALL STREET JOURNAL – Buy-And-Hold Empire Sells A Piece

The heir to the William Gottlieb estate, which controls a giant swath of Manhattan real estate, has broken with his family’s traditional buy-and-hold strategy by selling a downtown building.

The sale of the townhouse at 79 Horatio St. marks the beginning of a repositioning of the family’s holdings of more than 100 downtown properties that brokers have estimated to be worth as much as $1 billion. The townhouse, along with a building on East 10th St., were listed in May by Neil Bender, the nephew of Mr. Gottlieb.

A spokesman for Mr. Bender said that the estate didn’t expect to make many more sales but was planning to add properties.

“We are currently disposing of two properties that do not fit with the company’s development and growth plans,” said Gregg Sullivan. “We anticipate the addition of significant and strategic properties to the portfolio in 2011 and beyond.”

The two buildings were listed last year shortly after Mr. Bender won a favorable New York court ruling following a bitter dispute with his sister that had divided the family.

Downtown real-estate agents suggest the battle had discouraged Mr. Bender from putting other properties up for sale. Some brokers remain hopeful that the estate will put more select property on the market.

“The Gottliebs own some of the city’s most prized property downtown,” said Jonathan Isaacs, a co-founder of brokerage Aligned Real Estate. “The West Village inventory is extremely limited. I would love nothing more than to hear they are selling more property.”

The Horatio Street property, a white-brick townhouse built around 1880, is at a coveted Meatpacking District location, near the West Village and the High Line. But people who viewed the 6,750-square-foot property said it was in poor condition and would require gut renovations.

It was listed for $8.5 million and its sale closed late last month for less than $7 million, according to a person familiar with the matter. The buyer’s identity wasn’t made known.

Some have wondered if the sale and the break with Gottlieb tradition of holding onto properties, especially during a period when prices remain well below recent highs, suggested that Mr. Bender was trying to raise cash.

Tax experts say many owners were motivated to sell high-priced property by year-end because they feared an increase in capital gains taxes in 2011, though lawmakers reached a mid-December compromise to avoid any increase.

But Mr. Sullivan said the sale wasn’t done to raise cash or for tax purposes.

The three-story East 10th Street property remains for sale at $6 million. Both properties were listed by Jonathan Phillips and Ginnie Gardiner of Halstead Property. Neither could be reached for comment.

The long-running feud among Mr. Gottlieb’s heirs often spilled into the public spotlight. Retail and residential tenants sometimes complained that they were caught in the cross fire because, they said, during the dispute the buildings fell into disrepair.

Mr. Gottlieb started buying up downtown Manhattan property in the 1950s. When he died as a bachelor in 1999, he left his estate to his sister, Mollie Bender.

After Ms. Bender broke her hip, she petitioned to resign as executor to the will and requested her son Neil be named as the estate’s administrator. Before that happened, Ms. Bender died in 2007.

Her will left the Gottlieb estate to her son and her husband and excluded her daughter, Cheryl Dier.

Three days after Ms. Bender’s death, Ms. Dier filed objections to her mother’s will and to the appointment of Neil and Irving Bender as preliminary executors of the estate.

She alleged that Neil was unfit to serve as the estate’s administrator and that he was a “habitual drunkard,” according to court records. A New York surrogate court had ruled there was no evidence that he couldn’t handle estate affairs. In May, the appellate court upheld that opinion.

View original article at wsj.com