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Billion dollar bidders jump at last chance to buy ESB

By Sarah Trefethen

Offers are piling up for the landmark office tower

Already held up in court by resistant shareholders, the latest hurdle to the Empire State Building IPO is coming from another corner.

The private investment world seems unwilling to let the depression-era masterpiece go.

A total of four private offers have been reported on the 102-story tower in recent weeks.

“It’s not so out of left field that these bids come in now,” said Jason Meister, an Avison Young broker who is representing two of the would-be buyers in their offers. “Once this goes IPO, no one will be able to own the most iconic building in the world.”

JASON MEISTER

The first $2 billion offer came from Rubin Schron, part owner of the Woolworth Building, and was followed by a $2.1 billion offer from an unidentified investor partnering with Joe Tabak, of Princeton Holdings, and Philip Pilevsky, of Philips International, according to the New York Post.

Hometown boy Joe Sitt, of Thor Equities, threw his hat in the ring with an offer said to be north of $2.1 billion, and on Tuesday, the Post reported a fourth offer of $2.25 billion from the San Francisco- based investor, Reuven Kahane. David Bistricter, who recently bought the Sony Tower for $1.1 billion, is also rumored to be interested in bidding.

Malkin Holdings manages the property on behalf of a large syndicate of private shareholders, and must decide whether or not to hold a vote on the offers.

Malkin has been working for many months to incorporate the building into a publicly traded REIT, a plan that won the support of the majority of investors in May but is now held up in court by a minority of stakeholders opposed to the public offering.

The two purchase offers that Jason Meister is representing might present those shareholders with an appealing alternative. According to the broker, the deals would allow stakeholders who wished to retain their ownership interest the opportunity to do so.

Stephen Meister, the attorney representing the dissident investors (and Jason’s father) said he believes the Maikins need to consider the difference between the value of stock market shares and the cash offers.

“You have to understand, the appraised value is not what the stock is going to be worth,” he said. “The stock is going to be worth whatever the markets say it’s worth.”

REIT share prices have been dropping for several weeks.

STEPHEN MEISTER

Even if his clients’ appeal fails in court, Stephen said, it’s not too late for the IPO to be halted in favor of a cash sale.

“All the vote is is an authorization, it’s not a mandate,” Stephen said.

He consulted with his son on the two offers, he said, but he welcomes the additional interest from the two other prospective buyers.
Jason, however, is taking a more competitive stance.

Among the business ventures of Kahane, who made the fourth bid, is a chain of bagel shops the New York Times once credited with introducing the bagel to Israel.

“I just hope his offer isn’t full of holes,” Jason said.

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