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Wilbur Ross: We Are Ideal for Stuyvesant Town

Tuesday, 2 Feb 2010 | 9:39 AM ET

Richard LeFrak's property management group is "ideal" for the troubled Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village apartment complex in New York, billionaire investor Wilbur Ross told CNBC Tuesday.

His company WL Ross & Co in partnership with LeFrak Organization is seeking to manage or even acquire Manhattan's biggest apartment complex.

Photo by: Simon Law

Last month, the owners of Stuyvesant Town, Tishman Speyer Properties and BlackRock, said they will turn over the buildings to lenders after a missed debt payment.

The two bought the 11,000 apartments at the top of the real estate market in 2006, hoping to turn out tenants in rent-regulated flats and morph the units into luxury housing. But they were caught into the market downturn and legal troubles.

"We think that Stuyvesant Town is a problem that needs to be solved and we think that Richard's management group is the ideal solution to it," Ross said.

LeFrak's group already owns and operates around 23,000 apartments in the New York metropolitan area, of which 11,000 are rent-regulated, he explained, adding "and they're not looking at it as a flip to try to suddenly convert it to luxury apartments."

Stuyvesant Town was built in 1945 to house veterans from World War II at affordable prices and rents are subject to tight regulation.

Ross said it was "a misguided notion" to convert a stronghold of middle class New York into a luxury area and that many bidders may steer clear because it takes expertise to deal with such complex issues.

On Friday, the New York Post reported that Donald Trump may be interested to buy or manage the complex.

"I saw Donald Saturday in Florida and he says he's not interested although they've been begging him to come in," Ross said.

Trump did not immediately respond to CNBC.com's request for comment.

Dealing with the bondholders is an "immensely complicated" problem, because there are 11 tiers of mezzanine debt spread around a half-dozen securitizations, Ross said.

Mezzanine debt is a form of hybrid debt that includes options such as stock call options, rights and warrants and can be used to finance deals and buyouts. It is usually considered closer to stock than to debt.

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