Trouble in paradise

Leona Helmsley’s place, proud owner of the largest price cut in Greenwich real estate, is now the problem of Greenwich Fine Properties, David Ogilvy having been dumped.”We’re changing the narrative” says GFP’s owner, Lyn Stevens. Oh, and dropping another $5 million off its price. Whatever. Looks like the same old story to me, but I suppose one must say something.

22 Comments

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22 responses to “Trouble in paradise

  1. Anonymous

    White elephant when plenty of land easily available
    And most wealthy (who don’t already live in decent shelter on decent dirt) don’t want more than 5-10acs of good land anyway

    • christopherfountain

      I’ve always though the place should be valued as a four, maybe five-lot land deal. Do the math on that, and $40, $45 million should do it, once a builder with financing shows up, eventually.

  2. well-heeled

    Is the original listing broker in anyway liable for grossly overpricing the property (potentially to get himself some press and notoriety)? I suppose he didn’t have fiduciary responsibility so he didn’t break the law, but it still seems like a breach of ethics. If I were a beneficiary of the trust, I would find this quite disconcerting.

  3. A.O.

    I think it’s more than “changing the narrative.” David Ogilvy & Associates represents the old way to do business in Greenwich, most visibly a website with no prices listed, weeding out hoi polloi at the front gate. It says to me that they aren’t interested in selling property unless they see me first. I wouldn’t want my house listed in that manner, no matter how good a salesman he and his team are. A home and a realtor match is as important as finding the right woman to marry. I hope for Leona’s charity, GFP is the ticket.

  4. Jane

    Will David Ogilvy ever learn his lesson? He gets people to sign listing agreements with them by hugely overestimating sale price. All of his listings are ridiculously high.

  5. AJ

    Just $55M? Now any commom Goldman Sachs bond trader or gangsta rapper can afford to buy it. There goes the neighborhood!

  6. Anthony Fountain

    Have you seen his website? It looks as if were launched around 1999 and never updated since.

  7. Cos Cobber

    Isn’t Greenwich Fine Properties a mini version of Ogilvy? CF, does GFP list their properties on the MLS?

    I live in a tin can, but I think I know enough to recognize that the Dunellen Hall is woefully out of date and taste. Its wrecking ball time, no?

  8. Anonymous

    Jane, David Ogilvy learned “his lesson” long ago, and that is that by getting “people to sign listing agreements with [him] by hugely overestimating sale price” he makes, over the long run, far more money than he would by initially pricing his listings more to the market. IOW, if he were to initially give his would-be clients a more realistic estimate of their properties’ value, he might very well lose them to the clutches of another, more optimistic agency.

  9. Stanwich

    Cobber, having had the displeasure of dealing with a Greenwich Fine Properties agent, I can tell you they represent the epitome of all the bad things people associate with Greenwich………moneyed, stupid women with Junior League contacts talking about nothing and thinking they are the greatest. The GFP broker that represented the seller on the house we bought was so outrageously annoying, very stupid, didn’t know a thing about real estate or how to manage clients — just flighty woman with too much time on her hands. She bragged about her horse farm, her not-so-accomplished son and the fact that her family has been in Greenwich for generations. As if anyone cares that your family landed at Plymouth Rock.

    The worst thing about this broker is that she claimed to “know” real estate and that the house she listed was a whopping 20% lower than the original asking price!!!! Well, if you price a house in 2009 above the 2006-07 peaks, then it follows that the house is at least 40-50% overpriced for the 2009 market. This broker actually told me that her client had done an “excel spreadsheet” on pros and cons of my offer vs renting until the market returned. A spreadsheet, how quaint!

    What do you expect from a firm led by someone who thinks they can “change the narrative” and sell a house.

  10. dogwalker

    Often, my last walk for the night is somewhere around down town and frequently by the train station/Arch Street. Last night, for the first time in six years of this routine, there were signs of life at Ogilvy’s – a couple of people on the side porch. Strange, I thought. Never seen a soul there before; not even a light on inside. There was talking. Then there was a loud thud/bang, like something large being thrown into a dumpster. I wondered whether this might somehow be related to the Helmsley place.

    Right then, the dog spotted a rabbit across the street, so I could not investigate further!

    [It really did happen . . . about 9:30 . . . the people and the thud . . . and the rabbit.]

    • christopherfountain

      Well, those cartons of now-useless brochures are heavy and probably would make quite a thud hitting the dumpster. Look out below!

  11. A.O.

    Great story, Stanwich. So if Ogilvy (our daughter has an identical Ogilvy horror saga) and GFP represent all things bad about Greenwich, who out there represents the right approach, the good people?

  12. My rant

    While the price seems to be getting more realistic, the real obstacle with selling Dunnellen Hall is that Leona made a hash of the renovations. A koi pond? A flat-roofed indoor pool addition? All of the ivy removed from the house? No more grass in the front courtyard? All of the mature plant material ripped out?

    A future owner needs to spend considerable money just to get it back where it was.

    • christopherfountain

      Well there’s that, My Rant, but I also think the place has a real stigma in the current political climate precisely because Leona left such a bad memory. Would you want to be the Fortune 500 Executive who buys Helmsley’s Palace and gets all the attendant publicity? Not right now, thank you. If there’s any ‘changing of the narrative” to be done here, it’s to drop all reference to Helmsley and hope the public forgets she owned it.

  13. A.O.

    I disagree about distancing the sale from the Helmsley name. As I understand it, all the proceeds from the sale go to her charitable foundation, ergo anyone buying it could be perceived as helping what ever that cause/s may be. If I were the broker, I might dig into that aspect, see where the money might go, and look for an eleemosynary approach to the sale.

  14. grumpy old man

    GFP, Sotheby’s and PruCT all had the exact same narrative as Ogilvy while vying for listing 2 years ago. He just narrated better. The army of Hemsley family and lawyers set the price. That’s how it works.

  15. Ruff-ly Speaking

    The Helmsley Charitable Trust own website says nix to idea of $ Going to The Dogs…….quoted herewith:
    “In April 2009, the Trust announced the first grants since Leona Helmsley’s death, totaling $136 million; the vast majority went to health and medical research for humans, and $1 million went to dog-related charities. One or more dog-related charities undertook a publicity campaign, claiming that the Trustees had acted improperly and ignored Mrs. Helmsley’s instructions—a claim widely reported in the media.

    Did Leona Helmsley intend for this charitable trust to focus on the care and help of dogs, rather than people? Absolutely not. Have the trustees of this vast fortune acted improperly and ignored Mrs. Helmsley’s instructions? Again, absolutely not……”
    “One final thought. Mrs. Helmsley was not known for reticence. Here, her actions spoke as clearly as the words of the Trust documents. In the eight years between the formation of the Trust and her death, Mrs. Helmsley contributed (as the sole trustee of this Trust and otherwise) over $55 million to charitable causes; of that amount, she made only one gift to a dog-related charity, for one thousand dollars.

    Even more telling is this: The claim that the Trust was established for dog-related purposes relies on a document entitled “Mission Statement” signed by Mrs. Helmsley in 2004. Between her signing that document and her death – during which time she alone controlled the Trust – Mrs. Helmsley and the Trust gave over $29 million to charities; of that, the amount she and the Trust gave to dog-related charities was exactly zero.”

  16. My rant

    Btw, A.O., Ogilvy’s strategy of not revealing listing prices is also a way to get the phone ringing. Real Estate agencies, like many other businesses that have taken a “ready, fire, aim” approach toward the internet, are trying to deal with the fallout of giving away too much (free) information. You should applaud them for taking a stand while the short term thinkers lead us toward extinction.

    • christopherfountain

      No, Ogilvy’s approach is very much old school, where realtors kept all information secret and forced customers to call in for address, price, etc. whereupon David’s agents who, he claimed, didn’t “show real estate, but sell it” were supposed to take over, grab the sucker and sell them a listing – any listing at all, as long as it was one of theirs. This was SOP for all real estate brokers in the pre-Internet era but it’s been a broken model for fifteen years now, while information has flown free, despite the protests of David, Greenwich Fine Properties and other brokers of that sort.
      This is such an obsolete business model that I’m (almost) astonished it persists, but the old guard still represents sellers, who are as old as their brokers and just as clueless about today’s buyers. It’s pretty funny, in its own way.

  17. My rant

    Then what is the new business model Chris? Give away all the information so that buyers think they don’t need council?

    What we have now is agents working multiple towns (disservice to buyer) for fear of losing the few buyers they have, and agents getting direct calls on their own listings from unrepresented buyers and trying to convince them to sign a dual agency agreement (disservice to buyer).

    I would agree with you that witholding information is an “outdated” business model if what replaced it was workable, but I’m afraid we’re just another business that’s being compromised by the internet age. We’re all in a race to the poorhouse! Yippee!!