- James I. Clark III
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A New Chapter for Iconic Empire State Building
The landmark 102-story Empire State Building in midtown Manhattan could raise as much as $1 billion in a share sale and become a real estate investment trust (REIT), if the company that controls that iconic structure if its plans pan out. According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Empire State Realty Trust, Inc., intends to list the shares on the New York Stock Exchange. The firm, Malkin Holdings, LLC, will consolidate a group of closely held companies to form the REIT as part of the IPO, according to a separate filing.
Malkin, supervisor of the company the holds the title to the tower, said that it had “embarked on a course of action” that could result in the Empire State Building becoming part of a new REIT. Malkin Holdings supervises property-owning partnerships led by Peter and Anthony Malkin, and owns the 2.9 million-square-foot Empire State Building in conjunction with the estate of Leona Helmsley. Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. will advise on the IPO. The price and number of shares were not disclosed in the filing.
The proposed IPO would give investors a rare opportunity to own a piece of one of the world’s most famous buildings as New York’s real estate values rebound after the recession. Midtown Manhattan office property prices have recovered 87 percent of their value since bottoming out in mid-2009, according to Green Street Advisors Inc., a REIT research firm.
The REIT would consolidate Manhattan and New York area properties owned by companies including Empire State Building Associates LLC, 60 East 42nd St. Associates LLC and 250 West 57th St. Associates LLC. Participants can opt to receive cash instead of shares for as much as 15 percent of the value.
Since gaining control of the building 10 years ago, Malkin has invested tens of millions of dollars to improve the office spaces and cut the cost of heating and maintaining the 81-year-old structure. That helped attract tenants such as social networking site LinkedIn. According to the SEC filing, Malkin said that upgrading the building still requires additional investment of between $55 million and $65 million over the next four years.
As with many recent tech and internet IPOs, the company plans to have two classes of stock — class A shares that are sold to the public and worth one vote, as well as class B shares with 50 votes each. The structure leaves the Malkin family with significant control. The proceeds will pay existing stakeholders in the buildings who chose to take cash in exchange for their interests, and to repay debt. The REIT will list itself on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “ESB.”
The Malkins realize that leasing in New York is “highly competitive,” and faces new rivals in the skyline, primarily the One World Trade Center, which will have a broadcast antenna and observation deck that could attract tenants away from the Empire State Building.
At 1,250 feet and 102 floors, the art deco-style building is one of New York City’s most recognizable tourist destinations, enjoying its second stint as the city’s tallest building. It was the world’s tallest building from its 1931 opening until 1974, when the 442-meter Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) was completed in Chicago.
The building played a starring role in several movies, most notably “King Kong,” “An Affair to Remember” and “Sleepless in Seattle.”