Art Dynasty Heir David Wildenstein Sued After $79 Million Real Estate Offer Collapses

A spurned buyer is taking his case to court.

David Wildenstein. Courtesy of Patrick McMullan.
David Wildenstein. Courtesy of Patrick McMullan.

It would appear there are more Manhattan real estate woes for the Wildensteins, whose art and real estate empires are in flux. Billionaire investor Len Blavatnik is suing David Wildenstein for $10 million, according to the New York Post. Blavatnik claims that Wildenstein reneged on the sale of a $79 million Manhattan townhouse.

Wildenstein’s lawyers argued in Manhattan Supreme Court that the suit, filed by Blavatnik’s company Access Industries, is “frivolous and hastily contrived,” reports the Post, which cites the family’s “numerous personal peccadillos” that have become “fodder for the tabloids.”

The family is one of the world’s legendary art dynasties. As Bloomberg reported in 2016, “at least 360 objects in the Met have a Wildenstein provenance.”

In October 2016, the two men allegedly agreed to the proposed sale during a phone call, which Wildenstein’s legal team asserted was not a “binding agreement for a real estate transaction.” A week later, Blavatnik was allegedly informed that the sale could not go through without co-op board approval.

The Wildenstein mansion on the Upper East Side. Via Wikimedia Commons.

The Wildenstein mansion on the Upper East Side. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Wildenstein’s lawyers argued that a “sophisticated and experienced real estate investor” such as Blavatnik should have known better than to believe there was a binding agreement in place when nothing had been put in writing.

This isn’t the first controversy to arise over the sale of the Gilded Age Horace Trumbauer-designed mansion on East 64th Street, which has been in the family for 90 years. The Wildensteins first tried to offload the property in 2014, arranging a $90 million deal with the Qatari royal family. When the deal fell through, the Wildensteins sued the royal family.

In August, the mansion, which features 20-foot ceilings and a sweeping grand staircase, was back on the market, the price upped to $100 million. Blavatnik says he agreed to purchase the property for $79 million, but ultimately, the property was sold for $81 million to another buyer.

The family has been attempting to sell other properties as well. Last month, David Wildenstein’s father, Guy Wildenstein, took $10 million off the asking price on another family-owned building, at Sutton Square, which is up for $39 million. In November, the family sold Andy Warhol’s former studio, a two-story building on East 87th Street, for $9.9. million.

Meanwhile, the verdict in another Wildenstein family court case, in which the French government accused Guy Wildenstein of years of tax evasion totaling some $522 million, is expected to be delivered in Paris court next week.

The family patriarch faces a €250 million ($260 million) fine, and up to four years in jail.

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