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Wall Street Journal / Life - Entertain

How Michael Dell Kept a Big Deal Under Wraps

The tech entrepreneur’s record-breaking purchase of a New York City condominium remained a secret for years, thanks to legal agreements and LLCs

A penthouse at Manhattan’s One57 condo development, shown in the background, sold for a record $100.47 million. Photo: LightRocket via Getty Images


Katherine Clarke


Michael Dell managed to keep the $100.47 million purchase of a Manhattan penthouse—a record price in New York City—secret for more than five years, thanks to a tight network of real-estate agents, architects and professionals who signed nondisclosure agreements, according to sources familiar with the deal.

Real-estate experts say the Dell sale is symptomatic of a push among ultra high-net-worth individuals to keep purchases under wraps for privacy, security and tax purposes. That includes silencing professionals who work on the deals and avoiding any paper trail that might be made public.

Michael Dell, a tech entrepreneur, purchased a penthouse at Manhattan’s One57 through a limited-liability company. Photo: Bloomberg News

“People don’t want people knowing what they spent,” said Frances Katzen, a broker who has represented wealthy buyers. “You almost have to channel the purchase through three different subsidiaries to hide the buyer and most prefer to have some kind of gag order in place with the people they’re working with.”

Mr. Dell, founder and chief executive of Dell Technologies, bought his condo at One57, a more than 1,000-foot-tall tower on Manhattan’s West 57th Street, through a limited-liability company, P89-90. His attorney, Andrea Riina of Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz, signed all documents pertaining to the sale. Mr. Dell doesn’t appear to have taken out a mortgage on the property, which limited the public documents available. Mr. Dell, Ms. Riina and others involved in the sale declined to comment.

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Property records show Mr. Dell’s entity went into contract to buy the unit in 2012, when the building was still under construction, and closed in 2014. The only information publicly available about the apartment comes from an offering plan filed with the New York Attorney General’s office, which shows that it measures 10,923 square feet with six bedrooms and six bathrooms. A New York City Department of Buildings permit filing shows only that Mr. Dell is renovating the unit and ordered its sauna be removed in favor of more storage space.

Jonathan Miller, a New York City appraiser, said using layers of LLCs to mask purchases is most common at the top end of the luxury market. “The No. 1 asset in this super-luxury market has become privacy,” he said.

Write to Katherine Clarke at katherine.clarke@wsj.com