Was the Real Estate Bust to Blame for Robert Isabell's Death?

It came as a shock when the healthy-looking party planner Robert Isabell died of a heart attack in July. He survived wild nights at Studio 54 and working for Tina Brown, what was the cause? New York's suggestion: real estate.

A new profile of Isabell (seen here with Molly Ringwald at the launch party for his Parfumes Isabell product line in 1996) by Arthur Lubow examines his finances and real estate deals around the city, and shows that after he bought at the height of the market and as real estate prices and rents were crumbling. On August 1 of this year, he had a $48 million dollar loan that was due and no way to repay it. Though friends say he remained outwardly cheerful, it sounds like a stressful situation.

At the center of his real estate woes were 837 Washington, a Meat-Packing District building he bought for $45 million in 2008, that he planned to turn into studio spaces and offices for high-end clients. After he successfully flipped two buildings in 2006 — one on West 13th Street and another on Little West 12 Street — he thought this was his next step in the real estate game. When he couldn't get approval from the neighborhood landmarks commission to renovate the space on Washington, there wasn't any return on his investment to repay his loan.