Inside Iran’s Fifth Avenue Skyscraper
Citigroup, Joseph Abboud, Kurt Salmon Associates, Pali Capital, and the Liz Claiborne Art Ortenberg Foundation are just a few of the bold-faced names who may have been paying rent to the Iranian government for their offices in a Fifth Avenue skyscraper, according to real estate sources, the tenants’ own Web sites, and a complaint filed Thursday by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
The U.S. Attorney’s office alleges that the Alavi Foundation and 650 Fifth Avenue Company, owners of the rust-colored granite skyscraper, at 52nd Street, have been transferring its revenues into the coffers of Bank Melli, an institution that the complaint alleges is controlled entirely by the Iranian government. That also means that Jones Lang LaSalle, the brokerage that, according to real estate database CoStar, handles leasing for the building, may have been in the employ of Tehran.
Jones Lang LaSalle did not immediately have a comment.
From top to bottom, the 35-story building is also home to: Integrated Media Solutions; Mistral Equity Partners; TGM Associates; Delta National Bank; L.E.K. Consulting; the Doris Duke Foundation; Tower Capital Asset Management; Paradigm Global Advisors; Hana Bank; Starwood Hotels; Toppan Printing; Ore Hill Capital; MBIA; Sterling National Bank; De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek; and Broadmark Capital.
Only Hana Bank, a Korean firm, and Kurt Salmon would comment for this story.
“We saw the news yesterday,” said Young Jeong, a bank spokesman. “We are reviewing the contract with the building owner… We have some years left until the maturity of the contract, so we are scanning our documents with our broker.”
Peter Brown, a vice chairman at Kurt Salmon, told The Observer that though the staff of the building and its maintenance were to his liking, “As a veteran, as an American, I’m appalled at the idea that the money we pay to the landlord might be funding this regime.”
COSTAR DESCRIBES THE BUILDING as Class A, meaning a top-tier office tower, but brokers who have some familiarity with the building said its main allure was always its location in the city’s most expensive office submarket: the Plaza District.
“The ownership position has always cast a cloud,” said Robert Emden, a principal at PBS Real Estate, who has done some work with tenants in the building. “You know, it was positioned when it was put up in the ’80s to be a [Class] A building, but it never in my opinion attained that status for one reason; that was because of the reported ownership.”