Stephen G. Kliegerman
President of Development Marketing
By CRAIG KARMIN
The co-founder of Garmin, a maker of global-positioning system devices, has found his way to 15 Central Park West.
Min Kao, Garmin's chairman and chief executive, bought the 41st-floor condo for $40 million, according to people familiar with the matter. He purchased the penthouse apartment from William Lie Zeckendorf, who developed the limestone building at West 62nd Street with his brother, Arthur.
The penthouse's sale hit the public records earlier this week, but like many wealthy buyers Mr. Kao purchased the apartment through a limited liability company and his identity had not been disclosed.
A Garmin official said Mr. Kao declined to comment.
Mr. Kao, who was born and attended college in Taiwan, more recently has lived in the U.S., where he received his doctorate. Forbes last year estimated his net worth at $1.6 billion, down from $4.7 billion in 2007, following a decline in Garmin stock.
While affluent Chinese have been active in the New York residential market for years, some brokers say they are also starting to see increased interest from parts of Asia that historically have not been a big presence here.
Last month, for instance, one of Thailand's wealthiest businessmen closed on a condo at a Midtown building, the Park Imperial. Vicha Poolvaraluck, who runs Thailand's largest movie-theater chain, paid $4.2 million for the three-bedroom apartment, public records show.
Real-estate officials say booming asset markets in the Far East are minting new millionaires, helping to fuel buying interest in New York. In 2010, half a dozen stock markets soared to record highs, including those in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. Those gains were greater when translated from local currencies to dollars. While the U.S. currency appreciated against the troubled euro, several Asian currencies reached their strongest level against the dollar in more than a decade, thanks to rising commodity prices and booming local economies.
Some of the region's elite aim to diversify their holdings by putting a portion of their new wealth in high-end Manhattan property, says Edward Mermelstein, a New York-based real-estate attorney.
"Our expectations are extremely high that we'll see quite a bit more money out of Asia this year," he said.
On a per-square-foot basis, the industry metric typically used to compare prices on apartments of different sizes, the $40 million Mr. Kao paid for his penthouse apartment set a new record for the city. Mr. Kao paid nearly $10,000 a square foot for the apartment, surpassing another 15 Central Park West condo that sold for $9,486 per square foot.
Brokers say many Asians buy for investment purposes, or to give their children a place to stay while attending school in New York. These buyers tend to favor new developments in Midtown, often near prominent locations such as Times Square or Rockefeller Center, says Steve Kliegerman, executive director of development marketing for Halstead Property.
Even Chinese buyers, who are not so new to the New York market, are showing signs of heightened interest. Prudential Douglas Elliman broker Sherri Shang says she sold eight units to mainland Chinese buyers in one building alone—the Sheffield, near Columbus Circle—in the past four months. She also helps the new owners, who typically pay cash and close in as little as three weeks, to find tenants for their property.
After being skittish about the New York real-estate at the start of 2010, "Chinese buyers are feeling more comfortable that the market is stabilizing," Ms. Shang said.
Thursday, January 06, 2011