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Crown Building Sold For $93.6 Million at Auction

February 9, 1991 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ The Crown Building, a gold-encrusted Fifth Avenue office tower with links to Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos, sold at auction Friday for $93.6 million, a disappointment for the Philippine government.

The government, which alleged the Marcoses bought the building with embezzled funds, is unlikely to recover any money from the sale because there will be little left after the mortgage and bank fees are paid off.

″It probably means there will be no money going to the Philippines,″ said Jeffrey Greenbaum, an attorney representing the Philippine government. ″We are disappointed and had hoped the sale would have earned more money.″

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The building was bought by an investment group led by attorney Jerome L. Green, whose other real estate holdings include the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan.

The 26-story Crown Building with its gilded tower is located at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street - a prime midtown location near Trump Tower, Tiffany’s and The Plaza Hotel.

The auction was ordered by U.S. District Judge Pierre Leval, who presided over several civil lawsuits, including one by the Philippine government, that sought ownership of the Crown Building and three other Manhattan properties allegedly purchased by the Marcoses.

Under a recent settlement, the Philippines government was to receive about half the profits from the auctions of the four buildings.

The court-appointed auctioneer, Stephen Estroff, conceded that there would be little, if any, profit from the Crown Building sale, but said he felt the winning bid was fair in light of the recent real estate slump.

″I don’t think you could have gotten a better price,″ Estroff said.

He said the building probably would have drawn a higher bid if the auction had been held more than a year ago when it was first scheduled. The auction was delayed eight times because of problems with the terms of sale.

The sale took place in a courtroom of Manhattan’s federal court and drew a standing-room-only crowd.

Six parties - including the mortgage holder, Security Pacific Mortgage and Real Estate Services - came forward as bidders.

A representative of Security Pacific made the $93.6 million bid but that was topped by Green, who made an offer for $93,605,000.

″Going once, going twice, gone,″ Estroff said.

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Estroff said Security Pacific’s bid was a ″guestimate″ of what it needed to cover its $89 million mortgage on the Crown Building and other bank and transfer fees.

Two of the other Marcos properties have already been auctioned by Estroff.

The Herald Center, a vertical shopping mall, sold for $25 million and 40 Wall St., another office tower, sold for $77 million.

The fourth building, 200 Madison Ave., is still in foreclosure proceedings and is still to be auctioned.

Estroff has said that no profit was made on the Herald Center sale because the money was needed to pay mortgagers. He has not determined how much money will be left over on the Wall Street building sale after the various debtors are paid.

In July, Mrs. Marcos, 61, was acquitted of criminal racketeering charges that alleged she helped her late husband loot the Philippines’ treasury of more than $220 million, using the money to buy four New York buildings, artworks and jewelry.