Bob Guccione's former mansion on the Upper East Side is about to get a lot less porntastic. The 27-room townhouse that the Penthouse founder once decorated with neo-Classical female busts, Byzantine style fountains, and a Roman-inspired indoor pool (left!) was seized by creditors after his business empire went bust a few years back, and was purchased by hedge funder Phil Falcone and his wife Lisa Maria for $49 million in 2008. Now some big changes are on the way. Falcone's petition to dramatically renovate the home, demolish much of the interior, and scrap Guccione's treasured pool was approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission yesterday, which means another vestige of NYC's filthy past will soon be history. A moment of silence, please! [Curbed, previously]
Bob Guccione once lived like a king. The founder of Penthouse magazine, Guccione was once enormously wealthy (he made the Forbes 400 list in the early '80s), and he resided in a massively ornate townhouse off Fifth Avenue decorated with neo-Classical female busts, Byzantine style fountains, and carved marble commodes (above). Then he got a little too ambitious and tried to expand his empire by building a nuclear power plant (no joke) and a casino (slightly more plausible, but no more successful), and by the early '00s—just as the Internet was making his flagship magazine increasingly irrelevant—Guccione's business went bust.
The High Line opened to the public a couple of months ago. And it's a delight, isn't it? Unfortunately, it appears the park is a little too delightful since four times as many people have been stopping to visit than Friends of the High Line originally anticipated. And now maintenance costs have gone through the roof, so the group is now looking to tax local residents to make up the difference.
You may still be dealing with the nasty effects of the economic downturn, but the pain and misery appears to be over for the hedge funders who were forced to momentarily put off plans to buy a new jet or private Caribbean island earlier this year. The Post reports the first six months of 2009 were very good for the likes of Steve Cohen, Paul Tudor Jones, Phil Falcone, and John Paulson as "hedge funds overall turned in their best performance in a decade, with funds up 12 percent through the end of June." Before you immediately brush this off as just another example of the rich getting richer while the less fortunate continue to struggle, consider four reasons why it's actually great news that Phil Falcone may end the year with a net worth north of $3 billion:
It hasn't been a fun ride for hedge fund manager Phil Falcone since he picked up 20 percent of the New York Times Co. a couple of years ago. He had to face off against the ruling Sulzberger clan for representation on the board of directors and the company's plunging stock price means his investment in the paper is now worth a few hundred million less than it once was. Today, however, he gets his money worth with a Times profile of his beloved bride, Lisa Maria Falcone, who, as the title of the piece informs us, is a "philanthropist with a sense of timing." Indeed!
The High Line celebrated its grand debut with a splashy, Calvin Klein-sponsored party on Monday night. Naturally, Lisa Falcone and her husband, Phil Falcone, were in attendance: The hedge fund founder made a $10 million donation to the elevated park a week or so before it was unveiled to the public. Lisa took a few minutes to address the crowd at Monday night's party, and her speech came off as a bit loopy, according to people who were there.
Hedge fund mogul Phil Falcone hasn't had the easiest stretch as of late. The $500 million he plunked down for a 19 percent stake in the New York Times? The value of his shares have plummeted by nearly two-thirds over the past few months as the paper has struggled to remain solvent. And his recent efforts to dominate the charity circuit haven't worked out as well as he might have liked either. Last week, in what was either a very bold act of generosity or an effort to steal the limelight, Falcone and his wife Lisa announced plans to donate $10 million to the High Line, just days before the railway-turned-park was officially unveiled to the public. Unfortunately for Phil, his sizeable check still didn't entitle him to a front-row spot at the yesterday's official ribbon-cutting ceremony. So Phil did what he had to do to insure his pair of scissors was put to use (and his $10 million didn't go to waste). Evidence of Phil's brash power move below.
The High Line, the elevated railway turned public promenade, opened last night to a select group of donors and supporters. Before the gala kicked off, Diane von Furstenberg and Barry Diller issued a challenge grant, promising to donate $10 million to the walkway if someone else came along and matched it. Hedge fund mogul Phil Falcone and his wife Lisa delivered, and while it's still unclear when the public park will actually be public—rumor has it that it may just be a matter of days now—in the meantime, venture capitalist Fred Wilson was good enough to bring a camera along to last night's event so we can all get a little peek at what's in store.
Reports surfaced recently that media mogul David Geffen had expressed an interest in buying a piece of the New York Times. As the story goes, Geffen had offered to buy Harbinger Capital Partners' 20 percent stake in the paper; but Harbinger, the hedge fund operated by Phil Falcone, had rejected the overture because it had been hoping for a higher price. Much was made of Geffen's attempt to snag a piece of the esteemed paper, what his true intentions were, and whether the DreamWorks co-founder had been hoping to shape the paper's coverage of Washington and Hollywood. It doesn't matter much now, since the deal doesn't appear to be moving ahead. In the meantime, though, let's all be thankful that Falcone's wife, Lisa, hasn't been making any efforts to influence the Times's fashion coverage. Click on the photo above to see Lisa at the NYCB spring gala the other night in all her glittery glory.