A Manhattan limestone townhouse owned by the Republic of Niger will be auctioned by the U.S. Marshals Service next month, pursuant to a massive judgment against the largest and possibly the poorest country in West Africa.
For the past 15 years, the six-story townhouse at 5 East 80th St., steps away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Central Park, has been home to Aby Rosen, a well-known developer and principal of the RFR Holding, which controls the Seagram Building, Lever House and 100 East 53rd St., among other properties.
Africard Co., a biometric and electronic passport maker, sued Niger for failing to honor a contract for the production and sale of identity documents.
In 2014, the company won an arbitral award worth $17 billion West African CFA francs, equivalent to US$46 million at the time, according to public records.
The company sought to seize the Manhattan townhouse Niger purchased in 1977, considering the property as the country’s most valuable asset. In January, a New York judge gave Africard permission to execute on the townhouse.
U.S. Marshals will auction the property publicly on June 27 at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and the proceeds will go to Africard as its creditor. The minimum starting bid is $15 million, according to a court notice.
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Africard Co., through its legal team in New York, has tapped George Vanderploeg of Douglas Elliman to mass market the townhouse before the auction.
The 25-foot wide townhouse, built in 1925, has been renovated and offers 12,000 square feet of interior living space. There are no floor plans currently available.
“Under this unusual circumstance, it is anticipated that the asset will sell at a very deep discount to market value; the buyer will get a very good deal,” Mr. Vanderploeg told Mansion Global, adding that if the townhouse were vacant, it could fetch $40 million to $50 million.
The auction terms haven’t been finalized, but Mr. Vanderploeg said there could be a requirement for a 15% down payment.
According to public records, Mr. Rosen has a series of five-year lease options on the townhouse, which will potentially extend until 2032.
Mr. Rosen has the right to bid the property. He didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment sent to the RFR Holding.
Niger Permanent Mission to the United Nations couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
The townhouse has seen a slew of famous owners and residents, including Imelda Marcos, first lady of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986; and the late Lewis Solon Rosenstiel, a philanthropist and founder of liquor company Schenley Industries.
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